More than 22,000 vulnerable young people will be at risk of being homeless in the weeks leading up to Christmas, a charity claims.
Centrepoint said thousands of people aged 16 to 25 in England could find themselves sleeping rough or “sofa surfing” around the festive period this year.
The youth homelessness charity said the “worrying” figure exceeds the capacity of the 02 Arena in London.
Its survey of 227 young people who have been homeless found that 69% felt that no-one cared for their wellbeing, while 72% said it had a negative impact on their mental health.
Catherine Geddes, 26, of Keighley in Yorkshire, was supported by the charity after she became homeless at the age of 16.
Miss Geddes said she was kicked out of her family home following a breakdown in her relationship with her mother at the time.
She was then forced to “sofa surf” at a friend’s house while attempting to continue her education.
“You don’t know what to do at first and you feel like life has rejected you,” Miss Geddes said. “You feel like you are a burden because you don’t have anything to offer.
“Your self-worth becomes even lower than what it was before. You’re dehumanised.”
After spending time in hospital due to a worsening eating disorder, Miss Geddes said she became involved in an abusive relationship with a man.
“He would kick me out of his place and I would have to sleep rough,” she said. “I eventually ended up in a women’s refuge.”
Aged 22, Miss Geddes eventually found help through Centrepoint, which referred her to a mental health specialist and helped get her life back on track.
Today she is living in social housing accommodation and is studying adult social care in college.
“I have built up a good network of friends and life is slowly getting back on track,” Miss Geddes said.
Centrepoint’s survey found that 33% of young homeless people had spent a night in a park, 27% had slept in a tent and 10% stayed on a night bus because they had nowhere else to stay.
Almost three quarters (73%) of those surveyed also said they had “sofa-surfed”.
Centrepoint chief executive officer Seyi Obakin said: “In the last 50 years, thanks to our supporters, Centrepoint has been there for thousands of young people when they had nowhere else to turn.
“However, for every person we reach, there are hundreds more who need support.”
Centrepoint said it estimates that 22,250 young people will be at risk of homelessness between November 2019 and January 2020 based on data provided by 248 local authorities – 76% of all councils in England.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said its Homelessness Reduction Act, introduced in April 2018, means that local authorities and other public bodies are working together to actively prevent homelessness for people at risk.
The ministry said its rough sleeping initiative has also provided £76 million to 244 councils to reduce rough sleeping.
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