Housing the Homeless: Michael Sheen’s Activism

It is always wonderful to see famous people putting their hard earned fame to good use. I am particularly thrilled to write about Michael Sheen, one of my favorites, petition to the Welsh government for better provision of housing for homeless teens. Sheen’s use of his media presence to lobby government for social change renews my faith in mankind. It is a reminder to us all that we all have the power to effect change.

The Welsh actor aims to stop the government from placing homeless teens in “unsuitable” bed and breakfast accommodation. This social action comes as a timely response after the End Youth Homelessness Cymru partnership claimed more than 100 teenagers aged 16 and 17 in Wales were accommodated in bed and breakfasts during 2013-14. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) reported in May 2008 that although youth homelessness figures were falling at least 75,000 continue to be at risk. Sheen has explained his motivation for this project as follows “Being a teenager is a difficult and confusing time but being a teenager and homeless leaves you dangerously vulnerable”.

I am inclined to agree with this statement. Being a teenager was hard enough and I was lucky enough to have safe home to go to at the end of the day. The Mental Health Foundation study into mental health and youth homelessness, however, showed the main reason for teen homelessness was being forced out of the family home. I was always assured a warm bed, hot meals and the support of my family. I can’t begin to imagine not having this safety net, even now.

Sheen’s aim is to get homeless Welsh teens out of inappropriate B&Bs and into safe environments which have longevity. Although admittedly putting up teens into a B&B does get them off the street, this is only a short-term fix. What we need to see is a long-term plan to help our homeless young people into better housing with some degree of permanency.

Statistics that link homelessness and health in adults show that homelessness can have a drastic impact. The Homeless Link study of 2010 found that 73% of homeless people reported physical health problems and 80% of respondents reported some form of mental health issue with 45% having a diagnosis. This compares to the 28% of the general public who have a physical health problem and 25% with a mental health problem. For young people meanwhile, the Mental Health Foundation study previously quoted found that ‘there was evidence of compromised mental health’ in the homeless young people who participated in the study with half acknowledging anxiety and low mood which they associated with their homelessness.

Given the above information I hope you will all join me in recognizing Michael Sheen’s efforts to reduce teen homelessness in Wales. To sign the petition please click on the link provided at the bottom of the post. Let’s get together as 2015 draws to an end and help provide better and safer accommodation for our teens in 2016. Until the petition is complete and the motion has passed in Welsh government you will find me nagging you all to sign the petition.

To sign the petition click here

To read Mental Health Foundations full study click here

To learn more about the Joseph Rowntree Foundation click here

To learn more about the work of Homelessness Link click here

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