Homeless link to dads

October 4, 1996

A troubled upbringing is common among young, homeless drug users in Manchester, according to a new report, writes Kam Patel.

Published by researchers at Manchester Metropolitan University last week, the findings are drawn from a survey of 200 young, homeless drug users. Although nearly half said their relationship with their mothers was good during childhood and a quarter thought it fair, nearly half had a poor relationship with their fathers.

The researchers conclude that even if unlimited resources were available for re-housing, this would not solve the complex problems of youth homelessness.

Hilary Klee, the project leader said: "A major pathway to homelessness is poor parenting or family trauma during childhood. Youth homelessness needs a strategy that will address needs even more fundamental than providing a roof."

The Manchester team found that more than 60 per cent of the sample had experienced homelessness by the age of 16, and one in six were on the street aged ten. Professor Klee said another "alarming" finding was that while half of the sample had been taken into care, most had subsequently run away. Nearly 60 per cent had been homeless for over a year. Abuse, aggression, sexual harassment and the dangers of multi-drug use were among the hazards they faced daily.

But despite their bleak lives, 70 per cent of the 14 to 25-year-olds were confident of changing their lifestyle. Two thirds felt a sense of community among the homeless.

The survey, backed by the Economic and Social Research Council, found that the youngsters often used more than one illicit drug. Ninety six per cent smoked cannabis and nearly 60 per cent used amphetamines, closely followed by LSD, temazepam and heroin. Many used the drugs to treat the symptoms of streetlife. Seven out of ten used drugs to treat depression, nearly one in four used them for aches and pains and 15 per cent for insomnia.

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