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Showcasing Innovation on Youth Homelessness Matters Day

5 April 2017 at 12:49 pm
Lina Caneva
Innovative youth refuges with wrap-around services are being showcased as part of a Youth Homelessness Matters Day forum on Wednesday - an initiative of the National Youth Coalition for Housing (NYCH).

Lina Caneva | 5 April 2017 at 12:49 pm


Showcasing Innovation on Youth Homelessness Matters Day
5 April 2017 at 12:49 pm

Innovative youth refuges with wrap-around services are being showcased as part of a Youth Homelessness Matters Day forum on Wednesday – an initiative of the National Youth Coalition for Housing (NYCH).

To mark the day, youth homelessness organisations and peak bodies have also called on the federal government to commit to a national plan to tackle rising homelessness among young Australians.

Youth Homelessness Matters Day (YHMD) is a national campaign, held annually since 1990, and is aimed at raising awareness of youth homelessness among decision makers and the wider community.

In Melbourne, 80 workers from youth refuges came together to discuss emerging trends in responding to youth homelessness, including the needs of young LGBTIQ people, preventing homelessness among young people leaving state care, eSafety in youth refuges and the connection between family violence.

Melbourne City Mission operations manager for youth refuges Lisa O’Brien told Pro Bono News that youth refuges were a key component of the crisis accommodation system however they had traditionally not had a strong history of innovation.

“Melbourne City Mission’s youth refuge service is the largest in Victoria. The support is delivered through a holistic model, where young people are motivated to re-engage and focus on their studies and their future employability. They also receive individual case management, which enables them to work towards personal goals, and address any issues that may be preventing them from progressing to independent living – all on site, at the refuge,” O’Brien said.

“This is an innovative approach, combining wrap-around services with on-site accommodation.

“It’s an old term I guess, the wrap-around approach, but it is what we try to provide for all of the young people that come through our four [refuge] spaces.”

O’Brien said the old perception of babysitting young people had gone.

“It obviously looks very different for each individual as it should because there is no one-size-fits-all. We are looking at how we respond to young people with changing and complex behaviours. We are very much seeing that in our crises spaces,” she said.

“Once upon a time our crisis centres were looked as having a response where people could just sit back and have some space and time to figure out what happens next after they have just left home. We are not seeing that. We are seeing young people who have literally tried every other option that they have in their lives including extended family and their community. They have got to that crisis point and there is a whole lot more going on in their life around mental health, family violence possible drug and alcohol use and general health issues.

“We are shifting and changing the way we work with young people because a very different set of skills are needed and we are trying to promote the increasing professionalism of our work force and the skill set that they have. We are looking at them as case managers not residential workers.”

A recent analysis of AIHW data found almost 40,000 children enrolled in preschool, and primary and secondary school presented at homelessness services last financial year.

Youth homelessness organisations and peak bodies have called for a national plan to tackle rising homelessness among young Australians.

The Council to Homeless Persons (CHP) cautioned that youth homelessness census figures were conservative estimates due to the high likelihood of young people living in hidden forms of homelessness such as couchsurfing.

“Young people’s homelessness is too often hidden, because many young people are experiencing ‘invisible homelessness’ in the form of couchsurfing or overcrowding,” CHP CEO Jenny Smith said.

“A perfect storm of increasing reporting of family violence, decreasing housing affordability for families with kids, a pitifully low Youth Allowance and rising youth unemployment is contributing to the crisis levels of homelessness we’re seeing amongst our youth.

“We need a national plan to end youth homelessness that addresses the systemic issues that drive youth homelessness, including family violence, access to affordable housing, youth justice, young people leaving care, education and youth unemployment.”

CHP is also part of The Home Stretch campaign calling for the age of young people who are exited from out-of-home care to be raised from 18 to 21.

CHP said currently, around 50 per cent of care leavers will end up homeless, unemployed or involved with the law within the first 12 months of exiting care. In Victoria alone 400 young people exit care every year on their 18th birthday.

“Too many young people are struggling to cope independently at 18 years after a life in state care. A national plan to tackle homelessness amongst young people must include targeted measures for this very vulnerable group,” Smith said.

New figures showing that housing affordability is a growing issue for young people highlighted the need for more long-term affordable housing for young people in crisis, according to NSW homelessness and housing peak bodies.

The report released this week by the Advocate for Children and Young People (ACYP) found that children and young people staying in refuges reported feeling worried and anxious about where they were going to go after their initial three months had expired in the accommodation.

According to the report: “Young people who were working towards their goals, had secured employment, and were making concerted efforts to get their lives back on track, spoke of feeling very concerned about facing another perilous and uncertain housing situation”.

NSW Federation of Housing Associations CEO Wendy Hayhurst said people were working on creative, long-term accommodation solutions that would give young people the security and safety they needed to find jobs and “get on with their lives” – but they needed government support.

“Homeless services can provide support for young people, but young people are often last on the list when it comes to being placed in what little long-term affordable and social housing is available,” Hayhurst said.

“There are solutions out there – such the initiative by the Addison Hotel in Kensington to provide housing for young people while the hotel awaits development approval.

“It shows that people are willing to think outside the box, but we need the state government to urgently release an Affordable Housing Strategy that not only looks at property ownership, but also at affordable options in the private rental market for young people as well.”

The Victorian government has announced that registered housing agencies and funded community service organisations can access up to $35 million to deliver accommodation options for Victorians experiencing homelessness.

It announced funding for the second phase of the Accommodation for Homeless program as part of the government’s $109 million response to homelessness, in addition to $10 million from the community sector rooming house upgrades project.

The government said the funding would enable organisations to deliver up to 120 additional and upgraded crisis and longer-term accommodation options and upgrade existing sector owned rooming houses.

Check out the Pro Bono News Not For Podcast three-part series on homelessness here.

Lina Caneva  |  Editor  |  @ProBonoNews

Lina Caneva has been a journalist for more than 35 years. She was the editor of Pro Bono Australia News from when it was founded in 2000 until 2018.

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