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Homelessness does not necessarily mean rooflessness, says new study

7 July 2021 at 3:56 pm
Nikki Stefanoff
A research report commissioned by the not for profit Kids Under Cover looks at the effectiveness of its Studio Program on keeping kids off the streets. 

Nikki Stefanoff | 7 July 2021 at 3:56 pm


Homelessness does not necessarily mean rooflessness, says new study
7 July 2021 at 3:56 pm

A research report commissioned by the not for profit Kids Under Cover looks at the effectiveness of its Studio Program on keeping kids off the streets. 

A program building relocatable studios for kids has been effective at interrupting the spiral of youth homelessness, new research shows.

The A New Place to Call Home study was commissioned by Kids Under Cover to look at the long-term impact of its program on both the young people living in studios and their families and carers. 

It found that the studios, which address overcrowding by providing at-risk young people with their own space, independence and a sense of ‘home’, were an effective early-intervention solution to youth homelessness.

Kids Under Cover CEO Jo Swift said the research, conducted by Dr Paul Stolz from Swinburne University of Technology, showed just how impactful the studios were for everyone involved in the program. 

“The research revealed that not only did the studios give the young people a new physical space, they also provided them with a renewed sense of family, belonging, attachment and privacy,” Swift said. 

“The study has important implications for the homelessness sector as it reinforces the effectiveness of early intervention and prevention on youth homelessness. Particularly in regard to overcrowding in the home.”

The effect of overcrowding 

Almost a quarter of Australia’s homeless population are aged between 12 and 24. But Dr Stolz said that for many young people homelessness did not necessarily mean rooflessness. 

“Overcrowding may turn ‘homes’ into ‘houses’ and invite in other alienating factors, such as family violence, which for many young people is the major reason for leaving home prematurely,” Stolz said. 

“Fortunately, there is a way out for these young people. Many of the risk factors associated with youth homelessness can be addressed by early intervention strategies which reinstate the foundations of home, such as security, privacy, safety, and social and emotional development.”

Approximately 85 per cent of requests for Kids Under Cover backyard studios are to solve crowding in the main residence.

Swift said since last year, the organisation has seen a 123 per cent jump in the demand for this service.  

“This rise in applications is due, in part, to the current lack of affordable and available housing options, and the pressure this is placing on families and young people,” Swift said.

The mental health benefits of having your own space 

When compiling the report, Stolz interviewed 35 young people and their families who had taken part in the Kids Under Cover Studio Program.

“The research indicated the importance of ‘home’ to a young person. The home is where the foundations are laid for a sense of belonging, attachment, privacy and identity,” he said. 

“When these foundations are undermined, or compromised, the consequences can be catastrophic for a young person and their family. These include family fracture, increased welfare dependency, reduced educational and employment opportunities, and the risk of long-term homelessness.”

An unexpected finding from the research was that young people with significant mental health issues, particularly depression and anxiety, experienced dramatic improvement from living in one of the backyard studios. 

“In every instance, where mental health issues were identified, either anecdotally from the family or from professionals, the recovery was tangible,” Stolz said.

You can read the full report here

Nikki Stefanoff  |  Journalist  |  @ProBonoNews

Nikki Stefanoff is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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