This Homelessness Week (1 – 7 August) with the theme, “To end youth homelessness we need a plan.” Youth workers are scrambling to find often unsuitable and unsafe crisis accommodation for young people experiencing homelessness, leaving them fatigued and frustrated with an exhausted system that appears to be failing the most vulnerable.
The new Federal Government has committed to developing a national housing and homelessness plan, Youth Worker Craig McLean from Brisbane Youth Service says that frontline workers are tired and stressed, but their passion for helping young people is driving their perseverance.
“Young people (aged 12-25) are extremely vulnerable when they leave home, often due to domestic and family violence, and the system is not set up to support them effectively,” said Craig.
“72% of young people we met last year came from homes with family violence*, and throughout the pandemic we’ve seen a significant surge in referrals for support around family violence, sexual violence, and domestic violence,” he said.
The options facing young people forced to leave home are bleak; they have limited access to funds, are often the lowest priority for the limited accommodation available and are met with a huge shortfall in crisis and supported housing.
“Workers have to be creative and take initiative, placing young people in backpackers, over-priced motels, caravan parks, boarding houses, and wherever there is availability – sometimes risking exposure to further trauma and harm,” says Craig.
When these options are exhausted, they provide sleeping bags, vouchers to purchase tents, safety planning information, and other basic hygiene items.
“Sleeping on the streets places young people at high risk of all forms of exploitation, so they attempt to locate places to sleep rough that reduce their risk, often with close access to emergency services.
“We hear many stories of young people being moved on from their ‘safest’ option, meaning they must then locate to less-safe alternative places to sleep such as alleyways and under bridges,” he said.
Brisbane Youth Service meets young people at a crucial time of great need but also great opportunity for early intervention, if able to provide critical wraparound supports.
This Homelessness Week, get behind Daggy Jumper Day (Wednesday 3 August) to help raise crucial funds to help Brisbane Youth Service provide emergency supports to young people with nowhere safe to sleep this winter at: www.daggy.com.au.
Cover Image: Young Person in Fortitude Valley – photographer Mark Crocker