100 young people aged 16-25 who have experienced homelessness across England, travelled to Parliament on 9th December to form the second ever Youth Homeless Parliament (YHP) and present their combined manifesto to Homelessness Minister, Kris Hopkins MP, Stephen Williams MP responsible for localism and empty homes, and Rob Wilson MP , Minister for Civil Society.
The 100 young people are all currently receiving support from one of the following 8 charities: St Basils, Centrepoint, Crisis, Depaul UK, Forum Housing, The Foyer Federation, St Mungo’s and YMCA.
YHP offers an excellent opportunity for MPs to consult with the ‘experts’ on youth homelessness; the young people who have experienced it for themselves.
Opening the event one young person, Airs Meadows who is part of the National Youth Reference Group which is facilitated by St Basils said: “I recently read a quote by Rick Warren about how precious time is… ‘Time is your most precious gift because you only have a set amount of it. You can make more money, but you can't make more time. When you give someone your time, you are giving them a portion of your life that you'll never get back. We want to use our time to strengthen ties between homeless young people and Government….I hope that this Union truly shows a collective voice, and lets us tackle the issues together as one.”
Taking into account their own lived experiences, the event then provided the opportunity for these young people to share their experiences with MPs and present to them the policies they feel will help future generations avoid experiencing homelessness or the consequences that can result from it at a young age.
The young people collaborated to develop their 10 point manifesto, covering the key areas of ‘give young people a voice’ and employment, training, education, prevention, benefits, support, housing, health and the criminal justice system.
Here are some of the points made, although there were several points under each heading:
Responding Kris Hopkins MP thanked the young people for presenting their manifesto and committed to giving further consideration to their ideas.
A question and answer session then followed with Civil Servants from the Department for Communities and Local Government.
Speaking at the close of the event and addressing the other YHP young people, NYRG young person Mariam Ahmed said: “Just from some of the questions it feels like some of the feedback has been a bit negative but what I want to say is the only way we’re going to bring about a change is by coming to these events and talking and ensuring this continues year on year and young people can come back and sit again in these chairs as this is still our opportunity to be heard. This is still momentus when you compare it to the situation thirty years ago. We will continue to strive to be heard and try and bring about a positive change”.
Feedback after the event revealed that the majority of the young people were very proud and pleased to have had the opportunity to visit Parliament and be heard by Ministers. Airs Meadows, also from NYRG, said: “Speaking in Parliament was the most incredible thing I have ever done. Such a passion for change echoed throughout the halls of Parliament that day. I was so glad to be there, it was Awesome.”