For many, homelessness begins in childhood creating a cycle of ill health and diminished life chances that becomes hard to break.
Scotland’s youngsters face a life of homelessness and an early death unless more is done to tackle the thousands of family break ups that happen every year.
The Cyrenians charity made the call at its Scottish Centre for Conflict Resolution (SCCR) conference yesterday (Wednesday), saying that 5,000 young people across the country become homeless every year due to relationships breaking down.
Delegates at the conference, which was attended by Scottish leaders in the worlds of law, health, education, charity and government, heard that the average age of death for someone who is homeless is just 36.
Ewan Aitken, chief executive of Cyrenians, said Scotland has to make better use of tools, such as what it offers at the SCCR, in a bid to reduce homelessness.
Opened in 2013, the centre provides mediation for young people and families who are in conflict with each other to help them resolve their differences.
By working together we can change the culture of Scotland and normalise mediation as a tool to resolve conflict
The aim is to nip problems at the bud before they escalate and can’t be solved without someone leaving the family home.
“Conflict at home and youth homelessness knows no boundaries or class divide - it can happen to any family,” Aitken said.
“We know that one in four young people think about running away from home each month because of arguments. And a third of parents argue with their teenagers weekly.
“The reasons for homelessness are complex and as such tackling the issue requires joined-up thinking.
“We have come a long way, but more needs to be done, by working together we can change the culture of Scotland and normalise mediation as a tool to resolve conflict - before another young person becomes a statistic, or dies prematurely.”
Keynote speaker Aileen Campbell, minister for children and young people, told the conference that the Scottish Government is aware more work still needs to be done.
She said: “Preventing people from experiencing the misery of homelessness is a priority for the Scottish Government and services like SCCR’s National Resource Centre will provide vital help for those at risk of becoming homeless.
“I am delighted we have been able to support Edinburgh Cyrenians with £240,000 of funding to allow them to continue their important work.
“While the overall number of homeless applications has fallen for six consecutive years, we recognise there is more work to be done and we will continue to work with partners like SCCR to tackle the root causes of homelessness.”
Delegates were able to take part in a number of workshops and also heard about the need for creative solutions when dealing with family conflict and criminal justice from Ailsa Carmichael QC and how street football created hope for some homeless youngster from Street Soccer chief executive David Duke.
Diane Marr, SCCR network manager, added: “Today provided an opportunity for each and every one of us to consider how we manage and deal with conflict in our own personal and working lives.
“It shone a light on the importance of how, we individually and collectively, work and contribute to understanding and reducing conflict, as well as addressing the issue of youth homelessness in Scotland.”