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Youth homelessness crisis: 3 things governments need to do right now


5 August 2022 at 1:53 pm
Jason Juretic
First it was COVID driving youth homelessness, but now inflation is making a dire situation worse. Jason Juretic explains what governments should be doing as an immediate priority. 


Jason Juretic | 5 August 2022 at 1:53 pm


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Youth homelessness crisis: 3 things governments need to do right now
5 August 2022 at 1:53 pm

First it was COVID driving youth homelessness, but now inflation is making a dire situation worse. Jason Juretic explains what governments should be doing as an immediate priority. 

For those working at the coalface of youth homelessness, it would come as no surprise that COVID was a disastrous time for families and young people.

Anecdotally, everyone was reporting a significant spike in enquiries from young people at risk of homelessness, anywhere from double to triple the normal amount. At Stepping Stone House, our usual 30 enquiries a month jumped to 90.

Sadly, and like many others, we simply didn’t have the capacity to help. Trying to find accommodation for young people in that context was extremely challenging, particularly in New South Wales where state funding for young people leaving care and therefore at risk of homelessness is piecemeal or ends at age 18. In other states and territories state funding for youth leaving care has been extended to age 21.

The recent report from Mission Australia quantified what we all had experienced as a sector. A shocking 1 in 20 young people aged 15 to 19 experienced homelessness during the pandemic: a 20 per cent increase since 2017.

The report says the major cause of the spike in youth homelessness was family tension: with 49.3 per cent of young people seeking refuge concerned about family conflict and 28 per cent concerned about domestic and family violence.

We know economic tensions and uncertainty are a major factor in family tensions, putting tens of thousands of young people at risk of homelessness. With inflation running at 6.1 per cent, life is about to become even more difficult for millions of families.

The impacts of economic pressure will not be felt just by young people and their families, but also in the health, mental health, youth justice and emergency service sectors – many of which are under-resourced and stretched to the limit – if we don’t provide upstream support.

There is a moral case for state and federal governments to act here to protect vulnerable citizens, but any government discretionary spending would prevent knock on effects on other areas of an overburdened state and represent prudent spending.

When family breakdown occurs, there will be costs borne by the state. It makes more sense for government to try and prevent that from happening than doing the repair work after a crisis occurs: counselling, policing, drug and alcohol counselling, alternative housing are all more expensive than alleviating pressure before it bursts.

Three things state and federal governments can do to help right now are:

  • Provide utilities concessions and rental assistance for families with household incomes under $60,000
  • Family counselling services for families in crisis
  • Extend state care in NSW to age 21 for young people leaving care and at risk of homelessness

Many houses don’t have savings and disposable income to dip into to weather Covid or the inflationary storm. With inflation running at 6.1 per cent, there is nowhere to go. And sadly, many people despite having jobs are still not able to make ends meet.

In that context, government can assist firstly by providing concessions to families with a household income under $60,000. That concession should be applicable to energy bills and also make them eligible for rental assistance.

The second measure of providing counselling services for families in acute emotional and economic crisis should be a priority. Finding ways to deal constructively with conflict in families will go a long way to weathering difficult times.

The third measure of extending care is a simple one that the New South Wales government can enact to help young people and save the state precious resources in other areas.  Most young people about to turn 18 are thinking about what they will do with their lives. For young people leaving the care system and at risk of homelessness, an 18th birthday is one of trepidation as they wonder where they will be living the day they turn 18.

There is a lot of repair work to be done for young people who have experienced homelessness. If we can prevent that from happening by lowering tensions, that’s preferable. Where we can’t we need to extend care for young people to 21 and beyond so we can provide the emotional and practical support to set them up for their adult lives.

As the 12th wealthiest nation in the world, we not only can and should provide support for our citizens and vulnerable young people, it makes economic sense to do so.

Stepping Stone House provides wraparound services such as housing, counselling, skills development and mentorship for youth at risk of homelessness


Jason Juretic  |  @ProBonoNews

Jason Juretic is the CEO of Stepping Stone House and chair of Home Stretch.

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