The project focuses on the prevention of youth homelessness – a political priority in Wales and the global north (Anderson 2009 in Fitzpatrick et al; Mackie 2014; Shin et al 2001). The research aims to critically examine a highly dominant, yet under-researched approach to the prevention of youth homelessness – mediation. In the UK and international literatures, considerable attention has been given to the causes of youth homelessness (Embleton et al 2016; Gill 2016: Tyler and Melander 2015) however many of the dominant service responses have received little academic scrutiny.
This study will begin to address this fundamental gap by critically examining mediation as an approach to youth homelessness prevention. Mediation services seek to support young people and their families to bridge differences that risk unplanned exits from the home. Fundamental to the approach is the maintenance/re-establishment of ties with family, ultimately aiming to prevent homelessness. Two core geographical concepts will provide a lens to examine mediation services. First, the concept of networks will enable an exploration of how family and wider ties are broken, re-established or newly created over time, whilst also considering the strength of these bonds. Second, the related concepts of home and ontological security will provide the basis for thinking critically, whether mediation effectively prevents (home)lessness – even where a young person appears to be housed. Finally, crucial to this study will be a participatory approach, drawing from feminist traditions and the burgeoning field of Children’s Geographies, where the voices of young people are heard throughout the study.