The Welsh government, working with housing charity Shelter Cymru, has launched a new campaign to tackle awareness of so-called ‘hidden homelessness’, particularly among young people.
The campaign is targeted at young people who may be at risk of or already experiencing homelessness, and advises the public on what to do if they are concerned about someone they know.
Research suggests that people overwhelmingly connect the idea of homelessness with rough sleeping – which is not the case for most young people experiencing homelessness.
People can still be classed as homeless if they are sofa surfing or staying somewhere temporarily – such as a hostel, a night shelter or a bed and breakfast.
They could also be living in very poor conditions or somewhere that is not suitable for them or their family.
The campaign suggests that people should look out for signs, including someone having difficulties in their relationships with their parents and close family members, being reluctant to go home, keeping belongings with them or asking for help with money.
Those experiencing hidden homelessness are more likely to be at risk of exploitation, particularly young people, the campaign warned. For example, they might be targeted by people who want to pressurise them into sex or unwaged labour in exchange for a roof over their head.
Julie James, Welsh housing minister, said: “If you don’t have a place to call home it is likely that you are experiencing ‘hidden homelessness’.
“We know young people often don’t know where to seek advice and support – so that’s why we’re launching this new campaign.”
Shelter Cymru, which is funded by the Welsh government to offer housing advice, estimates that more than 15,000 people become homeless in Wales every year. Of those people, only a few hundred will be living on the streets, it suggests.
Jon Puzey, director of Shelter Cymru, said: “We know the earlier and more often someone experiences homelessness, the more likely they are to develop complex issues that might mean they become homeless repeatedly throughout their adult life.
“That’s why it’s so important that we make it a priority to prevent youth homelessness.”