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Failure to deliver 500 housing places is hurting young people

2 profile cutouts with housing shapes cut from the profiles 26 February 2024

In Victoria, in 2022–23, of the 11,200 young people presented to specialist homelessness services, almost half (49%) had a mental health challenge.

Following the Royal Commission into Victoria's Mental Health System recommendations, the Victorian Government committed to funding for 500 housing places. Nearly three years, on and the Government has yet to deliver on its promise.

Council to Homeless Persons (CHP), Melbourne City Mission (MCM) and Orygen warns lives are on the line unless the government acts on the overdue mental health royal commission recommendation.

“It’s been 35 months since the royal commission handed down a comprehensive roadmap to prevent homelessness among young people. In that time, youth homelessness has soared while action has stalled,” stated Deborah Di Natale, CEO, CHP.

“We’re seeing many homeless young people experiencing such serious mental health crisis that they need care in emergency departments and worse still it’s often the case where they’re discharged from hospital and dropped at a youth homelessness access point. Cycling from emergency departments to homeless access points is constant and as a result we’re seeing high rates of self-harm and suicide amongst this group,” said Shorna Moore, Head of Policy, MCM.

Tyler, 25, is an advocate with lived experience in homelessness having been homeless from age 21 until just a few months ago. They barely got by, showering at truck stops and charging their phone at libraries.

“Healthy food just wasn’t an option. There is nowhere to cook. There’s no way to eat healthy to sustain yourself. So, it was lots of fast food, lots of just getting by. There was just nowhere for me to be safe. And if there’s nowhere for you to go to be safe it feels like the only way out is to die,” shared Tyler.

House prices and unaffordable and rental costs are increasingly out of reach for young people, placing them at the pinnacle of risk in mental illness and homelessness subsequently undermining efforts to provide mental health care to the growing number of casualties.

“The supported housing tenancies recommended in the 2021 Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System, are a critical step to addressing this shocking trend and to give these vulnerable young people a fair go, not only for today, but for the rest of their lives,” said Professor Patrick McGorry, Executive Director, Orygen.

“The government cannot kick the can down the road anymore. Delaying investment only puts more pressure on health, justice and community services spending down the track,” said Di Natale.

There is no excuse for the Victorian Government not to act – especially as we are amid the worst housing and homelessness crisis in living memory.

“If you want our children – our most vulnerable people – to have a chance to be able to grow and to be ok in the way we want for all of our children – you have to give them a safe place to land.” – Tyler.

MCM’s advocacy for youth housing has been shaped by our Home in Mind Project, developed in conjunction with Orygen, and the incredible MCM Peer workforce we have on the Project.

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