The hostel for homeless mums: ‘I never imagined I’d end up here’

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Why are so many young, single mums stuck in temporary accommodation?

The threat of becoming homeless is daunting for anyone. But, as a parent, there’s the added pressure of putting a roof over not just your head, but your children’s too. If, as a young single mum, that fear becomes a reality, then where do you turn for help?

That question is answered in a new BBC Three documentary that follows the lives of five young mums living together in temporary accommodation, as they wait to be placed in permanent social housing.

Despite the persistent stereotype that young single mums are always first in line for council housing, the truth is often much more complicated.

Two-thirds (66%) of families living in temporary accommodation in England are single female parents with dependent children.

The hostel where the documentary is filmed is just outside London, in Luton. It’s home for now to women like Kychia who lives there with her five-year-old daughter, Alyssa. Kychia is 24 and has grown used to confronting the stigma of being a young mum on her own.

“People assume if you have a baby young that you’ve been promiscuous,” she says. “Because I didn’t abort my baby I’m seen like this.”

Kychia was adopted when she was a baby, and she didn’t want to have an abortion when she became pregnant unexpectedly. She and Alyssa moved to the hostel after her relationship with her family broke down during what she calls a ‘rebellious period’ of her life.

She says that while she would love to host a party for her daughter’s upcoming fifth birthday, they won’t be holding it at the hostel.

“There is a stigma attached to living in a hostel,” she says. “I don’t think the parents of Alyssa’s friends would want their kids coming to play round here.”

The accommodation is functional but nothing fancy. Each of the 10 residents has their own small flat where they sleep with their kids – and they all share a kitchen and laundry room. There are kids’ drawings on the walls and colourful toys strewn round the living area. The girls often cook together and chat and laugh while peeling potatoes like any other group of flatmates. Sometimes, they’ll visit staff in the hostel’s office for a chat, while their little ones eye up the collection of biscuits.

“It’s not nice being stuck in the system, being spoken to like you are nothing because you are on benefits,” Kychia says.

Government figures suggest the number of homeless single mums has gone up by 48% over the previous eight years. More than 37,000 female single parents now live in temporary accommodation across the country. 

“It’s simply not right that so many parents are being tipped into homelessness by our housing emergency. Single mums now make up almost two-thirds of the homeless families living in temporary accommodation,” says Polly Neate, chief executive of the homelessness charity Shelter. “That’s why we are urging the government to get more social homes built, and until then ensure housing benefit is enough to cover the cost of private rents.”

“Everyone deserves a safe and secure place to live, and reducing the number of households in temporary accommodation is a priority for the Government,” says a spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. “We’re investing over £1.2 billion in tackling homelessness and rough sleeping, providing a Flexible Homelessness Support Grant of £617 million for homelessness services, and committing £40 million of funding to establish the London Collaboration Project to improve the procurement of temporary accommodation.”

When a single mum like Kychia becomes unintentionally homeless, the council normally has a legal duty to provide them with emergency accommodation while it considers whether the family will be eligible for permanent housing.

Juggling motherhood with a limited income can make paying rent and bills a struggle. While the hostel Kychia lives in has adequate facilities, this is sadly not always the case and research suggests that this type of accommodation can be inadequate for families, for various reasons.

According to findings and reports collected by social enterprise the Young Mums Support Network, temporary accommodation (usually a hostel or B&B room) can differ greatly in shape and size. It could be too small for a family, or might be in a bad state of repair, or not have suitable family facilities – for example, communal bathrooms with strangers. Not all temporary housing looks like that featured in the film. 

For the original article see here

UK Care provide supported living, our services focus on supporting young people facing homelessness, including those who are young parents. By providing live in support workers, we encourage them to focus on their Strengths, and build a positive support network to achieve their ambitions such as aiding with independent living.

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