Homelessness is highly visible on our city streets. We see people sitting on the streets, sleeping rough as we exit the grocery store or during our daily work commute. After a few blocks, the sheer number of individuals we see experiencing homelessness feels unending.

Yet, even without seeing individuals on the streets, we tend to have a preconceived notion of who homelessness looks like: an older man who perhaps appears rough around the edges. In reality, homelessness looks like all kinds of people.

Though the saying goes “seeing is believing”, we need to acknowledge and see the invisibility of youth homelessness increasing across Scotland. Blending into the masses, more and more youth under 25 years old are experiencing hidden homelessness: on the outside they are your every day citizen, yet behind the scenes they are struggling to find and maintain stable housing, employment and meaningful relationships.

Between 2017-2018, Shelter Scotland reported that 38 children per day were filing as homeless. For such a high statistic, youth homelessness should seem incredibly visible to us; yet, in cities like Edinburgh and Glasgow which contain many adolescents and students, children becoming homeless easily fade into the background.

For many youths who are homeless, seeking a friend’s couch is the fastest method of avoiding the streets. “Couch surfers” join the other 6,826 dependent children living in temporary accommodations across Scotland (Shelter Scotland). It was recorded by the Scottish Government that the number of children in temporary accommodation increased in 2018 by over 4% (245 more children) compared to the previous year. People who are homeless and have children also remained in temporary accommodation longer (216 days) compared to people without children (167 days).

Contrary to what is often assumed as the primary cause of youth homelessness, like drugs and alcohol abuse, Shelter Scotland found that half of all homelessness applications sited familial breakdowns as the primary reason for their loss of housing. Without a stable home or relationship with parents or partners to return to ­– in addition to the ever-increasing cost of housing in Scotland ranging anywhere from £3000-£5000 per square meter regardless of proximity to the city centre – alternative housing options are in short supply for young people at risk.

Services like Bethany’s Kharis Court youth resettlement accommodation home are becoming more vital than ever in Scotland. With nowhere left to turn, seeking support and shelter at Kharis Court removes the incredible stress and pressure young people are feeling when faced with the looming questions of what to do next.

Kharis Court staff are dedicated in providing 24-hour support, whether it be working through tenancy issues, tackling sensitive situations or building relationships with people utilising Kharis Court’s services. With the goal of supporting youth through their challenges and teaching them the proper skills to succeed on their own; staff are improving the lives of future creators, innovators, poets, engineers, world changers and beyond.

Just because we cannot see someone struggling does not mean they are not. It only takes “Are you okay?” to make a big difference in a person’s life and potentially help them avoid youth homelessness.

Young men and women aged 16-25 are eligible to stay in our Supported Hostel. Referrals for applications to Kharis Court can be made through West Lothian Council primarily, through Care After Care (TCAC) or through their Local Health Visitor & Social Worker. If you know someone experiencing youth homelessness, contact khariscourt@bethanychristiantrust.com