Youth AIMS - Housing Advice for Young People

  • 15 October 2019

Too often young people don’t know where to go for help in areas such as housing and homelessness. Youth AIMS was established within Rushmoor as the council believed that young people would feel more comfortable seeking support within a young person friendly environment such as Step by Step. Youth AIMS offers free and confidential advice and information on a range of issues to support young people through challenging times, including support with homelessness and housing.

The Housing Challenges Facing Young People

There are many reasons why young people experience housing difficulties - parents being unable or unwilling to provide housing, extended family being unable to help, splitting from a partner, tenancies ending, domestic abuse, rent arrears and leaving care.

A research study by the BBC in December 2017 found that:

  • Following a crisis at home, 41% of young people have stayed with friends on floors or sofas for at least one night.
  • Just over 9% did so for over a month.

Sofa-surfing is, of course, not a long-term solution. As the person outstays their welcome it can lead to exposure to dangers. Many young people become trapped in a vicious cycle as they face issues compounded by their lack of a permanent home address.

In 2017-2018, 103,000 young people aged 16-25 years approached a local authority for housing need (Centrepoint 2019), but this is potentially just the tip of the iceberg.

Those experiencing homelessness face further barriers:

  • The introduction of Universal Credit has meant that some young people are without money for longer periods of time. The consequence is that many get behind on rent payments. Furthermore, they face being sanctioned if they don’t submit the correct evidence.
  • Without life skills and experience, young people struggle to budget properly and rent arrears occur. Young people in House of Multiple Occupancy (HMO) get their Housing Benefit element paid direct to them instead of to the landlord. In some instances, they don’t prioritise paying for their housing and end up not paying their rent. This can lead to eviction.
  • Landlords are now asking for a month’s rent in advance as well as a deposit. The impact is that we, as society, can fund fewer young people who are facing housing challenges.
  • Several providers are fighting over the same Landlords – RBC, Hart Housing, Homegroup, and NLL.

Youth AIMS – How We Help

Youth AIMS is an open access advice and information service that offers guidance to young people in areas such as housing, homelessness, money and debt management, relationships, employment, sexual health and well-being.

Our free and confidential service is available for anyone aged 11-25. We are here to listen and provide support to young people who are going through difficult times.

Support with Housing Needs

In 2018-19, 73% of the young people supported by Youth AIMS had a housing need, an increase on the previous year.

With help from our trained support workers, our aim is to explore the reasons why young people are homeless and to see if there is any way that they can return home. However, for many this is not possible, so we would look into their other housing options:

  • We would explore whether they felt they needed supported accommodation or whether they had the independent living skills to help them to sustain a tenancy.
  • We would support them to secure accommodation via referrals to housing providers and with a Rent Deposit Scheme provided by Youth AIMS.
  • If a young person is street homeless and in crisis, they can access a shower and food parcel at Youth AIMS. The team can explore what accommodation is available and/or refer to the Winchester Night Shelter.
  • Any young person under 18 years old will be signposted to Children’s Services and staff can help them make contact.
  • We would help them to be more informed on their housing rights and reconnect them with their local authority if they have no local connection to Rushmoor.

Youth AIMS may support young people to find accommodation more than once, for example, if their current placement ends or they progress from one of our Accommodation Services to live independently.

Support with Other Issues

During assessment by the Youth AIMS team, over 70% of young people are identified as having some additional needs. These include emotional health and wellbeing, family and relationships, advice with financial issues, employment and education, sexual health needs, and offending behaviour.


Helen’s Story

Facing severe challenges in life including grooming and exploitation, Helen had been living in the Amber foundation in Devon. She returned to Rushmoor to be closer to family and friends but ended up sofa-surfing with no stable place to call home.

Youth AIMS referred her to a Step by Step emergency bed, before moving her into Step 1 accommodation. She now accesses support from Step by Step staff and is exploring education and employment opportunities.

Youth AIMS – Our Impact

From April 2018 to April 2019, Youth AIMS supported:

  • 209 young people of whom 85 had a primary need for housing support.
  • 6 young people who presented in ‘crisis’ and needing emergency accommodation.
  • 38 young people who were referred and accommodated in supported accommodation including: Step by Step Foyers, Supported Lodgings, North Lane Lodge and Amber Foundation.
  • 11 young people to secure a room to rent via the Rent Deposit scheme.
  • 2 young people who had complex mental health needs and were referred to specialist accommodation.
  • Young people who approached Youth AIMS but did not have a connection to Rushmoor. They were given advice (signposted) to assist them in contacting their local housing authority.
  • Children under the age of 18 years who were signposted to Children’s Services.

Nick’s Story

Nick faced many challenges - fleeing domestic abuse, severe relationship breakdown with his Mum’s new partner, lack of employment opportunities and lack of affordable accommodation.

Nick contacted Youth AIMS and disclosed that he experienced suicidal thoughts and substance misuse. He felt that supported accommodation would give him the stability he needed and the chance to build his confidence and self-esteem.

Youth AIMS referred him to our Aldershot accommodation where he could also access the Step by Step counselling service. He is now living independently.

Looking to the Future – Funding is Critical

At Step by Step we passionately believe in supporting local young people who are going through hard times. Our unique approach comprises accommodation, personal development opportunities and specialist support services such as Youth AIMS.

Since its launch, Youth AIMS has been able to take significant steps forward in helping young people with housing needs. However, budget cuts at Local Authority level have reduced the service that can be offered. This year, we have received notification that Hart Borough Council are no longer able to fund the Youth AIMS Drop-In Advice service which they have done in previous years. And while our funding from Rushmoor Borough Council has been retained at the same level as 2018-19, this still left a sizeable funding gap to provide a Rushmoor-only service.

Fortunately, we secured a grant from The Schutz Engle Trust, whose valued support means the Youth AIMS service is full funded until March 2020.

“Youth AIMS provides a critically important service to help young people overcome hurdles that the majority of us do not have to face. Every housing situation is different, complex and challenging. But sometimes, with just a few minutes help, we can provide the young person with housing options or advice that can turn their life around. Our service supports some of the most vulnerable young people in our society.”

Kate Martins, Youth AIMS Step Worker

For more information, please contact the Youth AIMS team:

01252 346105 / YouthAIMS@stepbystep.org.uk

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