DEMAND for a charity that helps vulnerable young people find a place to live has rocketed by 35 per cent this year — and its director has warned it will get worse.
The Bolton Young Persons Housing Scheme (BYPHS) has helped 207 16 to 25-year-olds who have nowhere else to go since April.
This compares with 180 for the whole of 2012/13.
The young people have either fallen out with their families, are struggling with addiction and debt or are at risk of sexual exploitation.
Over Christmas the charity’s central Bolton hostel opened for the first time ever, given 11 teenagers the chance to celebrate with games, stockings with presents donated by local businesses and a home cooked meal.
Maura Jackson, director of BYPHS, said they chose to open in response to increasing demand. She said: “We had a number of people who had nowhere to go.
“We hung stockings on the residents’ doors. They were asking ‘What is this?’, they’d never seen or had them before.
“Two of our young men used a phone to ring home on Christmas Day — one was invited home for dinner, the other was told that they didn’t want to speak to him.
“I’m a parent and there are times when you are just dismayed — it’s hard to watch.”
The charity has been going since 1991 and provides short and long-term accommodation for young people to keep them from becoming homeless.
It has helped turn around the lives of some of Bolton’s most vulnerable young people and Maura said many are now going into employment and full-time education and this year five went to university.
However, demand for its services has increased steadily over the past four years — and Maura says changes to welfare reform are a contributing factor.
She said: “Families have less money — because their benefits are being affected or they can’t find a job — and there are fewer opportunities for young people.
“We had hoped that the bedroom tax would reduce the number of young people having to leave but that hasn’t happened and we’re still seeing people coming through.
“We’re also seen a big increase in domestic violence over the past 18 months — some of our residents think it’s normal.
“With more cuts on the way for Bolton and nationally, it can only get worse.
“Universal credit will absolutely cripple us if it comes in. You’re giving 16-year-olds £1,500 at the beginning of the month — and the money will go to their families, their peers or loan sharks.
“Young people won’t be able to cope and with the best will in the world it will be very difficult to badger them to get the rent to us on time. It could be the beginning of the end.”
To help the charity, visit byphs.org.uk or call 01204 520183.