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Young people

Posted12.01.24

Tackling Youth Homelessness: The Great London Santa Challenge

Against the backdrop of a housing crisis, the issue of youth homelessness has reached alarming proportions. A record number of young people are seeking help. According to recent research by CentrePoint, nearly 136,000 young people reached out for assistance in the last year alone. This is equivalent to one young person facing homelessness every four minutes.

The root causes of homelessness among young people often stem from unsafe home environments or family difficulties. This can be exacerbated by soaring rents in London and the rising cost of living. Disturbingly, 35% of young people reporting as homeless were not assessed when seeking help. Some were advised to return home, even when it might not be a safe option.

Certain groups, such as care leavers, LGBTQIA+ individuals, and young people from ethnic minority backgrounds, are particularly vulnerable. Research from Stonewall reveals that almost one in five LGBTQ+ people have experienced homelessness, with rates even higher among trans individuals. Family rejection and discrimination are major contributors to the overrepresentation of LGBTQ+ young people in homeless populations.

One critical aspect often ignored is the impact on mental health and emotional well-being. Young people in homelessness situations require more than just housing – they need comprehensive support tailored to their specific needs. Prevention is as crucial as supporting those already homeless, especially considering that factors beyond their control can lead to homelessness.

Another serious issue we are seeing is the isolation and loneliness in young people. Homelessness can pull you apart from family and friends and make you feel like you are alone.

Introducing – The Great London Santa Race

And so that’s why at Christmas, The Great London Friendship Project and Evolve Housing + Support teamed up to brighten up the Christmas of homeless young adults in the capital.

As part of this, on Saturday 23rd December – The Great London Friendship Project hosted their very first Santa Challenge, an afternoon of gamified Christmas giving. The event was a fun mix of a scavenger hunt, a Christmas shopping trip and a live game of Supermarket Sweep – with great prizes up for grabs!

Armed with the present fund, teams had three hours to race across London to create the best sacks of presents to be gifted to two of Evolve’s young person’s services in Kensington and Chelsea. Teams could use the fund and their creativity to source essential items and treats that could help add some sparkle to someone’s Christmas.

Along the way, to spice the game up – there were a series of live challenges designed to test creativity and speed, that could earn teams’ extra points. And of course, no Santa Race would be complete without a few Santa hats and costumes to bring the festive magic.

We were hugely grateful to receive incredible donations – worth over £1,000 from a number of big high street brands. These came in the form of winter clothing, vouchers and financial contributions from the following organisations:

  • River Island
  • Whole Foods
  • John Lewis
  • New Look
  • Lush
  • Mountain Warehouse

Over the course of the afternoon, teams built a carefully curated sack of presents. By contacting connections and bartering to get discounts and additional goodies to add to their sack.

The result: 5 INCREDIBLE full sacks of presents delivered, a heartwarming afternoon of Xmas giving and so much festive joy. We then judged the sacks and awarded prizes, before taking the presents over to Evolve’s Kensington and Chelsea services.

Aladine, team manager at Evolve in Kensington and Chelsea had this to say:

“The items were grouped together and given to residents depending on what they wanted and pretty much everything has now gone, so it was all popular! The games donated will be used in the communal areas to help encourage people to come together and socialise.

 Being able to provide high quality products, as well as food, makes a big difference to their experience with us, especially during the winter months. We wouldn’t be able to provide these items were it not for community partners like The Great London Friendship Project.”

The impact of The Great London Santa Challenge highlights the vital role that community partnerships play in providing essential support to those in need.  This is especially important during the winter months. It is a reminder that ongoing collaboration and awareness are essential to address the complex issue of youth homelessness.

Find out more about how we are supporting young people in Kensington and Chelsea.

Find out more about the The Great London Friendship Project here.

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