£700,000 lifeline to prevent runaways becoming homeless

A NEW “lifeline” service aimed at preventing young runaways from becoming homeless when they are older has been launched in Scotland.

Shelter Scotland and Relationships Scotland will run the Safe and Sound initiative reaching out to almost 12,000 youngsters who flee home each year.

Studies show they are not only at great risk when they run away but, in the longer term, they are more likely to become homeless.

More than four fifths of homeless people under the age of 25 ran away before they were 16.

That compares with just 11 per cent of the young adult population as a whole.

One in five youngsters who are now homeless first fled their family home before they were 11.

Just over a quarter of young runaways slept rough the last time they left their family home, while, disturbingly, one in six was either physically or sexually assaulted.

Shelter Scotland director Graeme Brown said: “Today’s runaways are tomorrow’s young homeless people.

“If we are serious about preventing homelessness then addressing why children and young people run away is essential.

“This project is early intervention in action, offering a lifeline for many young people and their families.”

The project will be based in Dundee and funded with almost £700,000 from the Big Lottery Fund for an initial three years.

Their focus will be on returning youngsters to their family homes and resolving whatever problems caused them to run away in the first place.

However, where the family breakdown is so severe that a return to the family is not possible, they will team up with other agencies to provide housing and support to make sure they have a long-term place to stay and do not become homeless or “sofa surf”, which many currently do, moving from friend to friend until they run out of options.

In some cases they will continue to live away from home, but will still have a relationship with their family.

Mr Brown said: “We look forward to working with Relationships Scotland in offering help to those who need it most and, where possible, preventing homelessness by facilitating the safe return of young runaways to their family home.

“Where this is not possible we will help them to find and keep a home of their own, while continuing to support them through the family mediation service to sustain and improve family relationships.”

“Reducing conflict and preventing young people from running away in the first place has real social benefits.”

Amy Lorimer, a family mediator with Relationships Scotland, said the service would help families to “work through their conflict and develop mutually agreed ways to move forward”.

This would strengthen family relationships “whether this means managing their relationship in one home or by living in different homes, but maintaining the support of their family”.