It’s a tale as old as time, man meets woman, the two fall in love and after some time (plus nine months), a new life is brought into this world. They are a family unit, creating many memories together and they all live happily ever after.

Now, there are of course a few kinks to iron out in this story, not least to bring it up to date with the more modern and gender fluid world we live in, but also to acknowledge that not all families remain together and whilst it is a wonderful sentiment, happily ever after isn’t the ending many can expect to experience.

Whilst there are a number of reasons as to why families breakdown and some are for valid reasons, this is sited as the single biggest factor that leads to youth homelessness in the UK, with almost 136,000 requests for youth housing support in 2023, nearly 60% up on 2017[1]. These are staggering figures to read about and unless more is done to combat this, it is going to get worse.

In March, LandAid a charity dedicated to ending youth homelessness hosted their annual SleepOut where a handful of Freehold members along with 1,300 other real estate professionals came together across seven different UK locations to sleep outside for the night, raising funds for this very worthy cause.

Was it cold, yes, uncomfortable, certainly, but we had the fantastic security team at Westfield keeping us safe, matts, gloves, thermals and sleeping bags keeping us warm and the knowledge that in the morning we could go home to have a shower, get a decent rest and go back to our normal routine. But for those 136,000 kids (16-24 years old) what we had just experienced is part of their normal routine.

I don’t share this story of the event to bathe those who attended in glory and bring guilt to those who didn’t do it; though all donations are still very welcome and make a big difference – DONATE. What really struck most and is a point for reflection was what doing this for more than a few hours would do to mental stability. Having to question where you might sleep day after day must be an incredibly tough proposition to face. In just those few hours of trying to sleep outside, whilst physically being surrounded by so many does make you feel very isolated and I can then only imagine that the prospect of a more sustained period of this will bring thoughts of insecurity, emotional rejection and helplessness.

So, perhaps this is the reason to share this story. To take a moment to consider what these individuals will be going through and the lasting damage that this could be causing. Events like this and the growing number of attendees raise the awareness of the problem and really show the support and care we all have for this. Maybe this is a problem that can never be 100% eradicated, but it can be massively reduced.

Over £700k has been raised so far from this event which is a tremendous effort and will have a huge impact in getting kids off the street, maybe even permanently. So for those who haven’t experienced that fairy tale happily ever after, perhaps their story just hasn’t ended yet.


[1] https://www.landaid.org/our-impact/why-end-youth-homelessness/