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Youth Homelessness matters to us

Youth homelessness matters to us 15 April 2020

Wednesday 15 April marks the day we observe Youth Homelessness Matters Day (YHMD) which aims to raise awareness of young people in Australia experiencing or at risk of homelessness

An advocacy campaign led by Australia’s peak homelessness body, Council to Homeless People, this year is exploring the theme “With a home a young person could…”.

As the outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19) continues in Australia and around the world, Youth Homelessness Matters Day is a timely reminder that no one should be left behind in times of a crisis. 

Youth Homelessness in Australia 

Based on the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Census data 2016, more than 27,600 young people in Australia aged 12-24 don’t have a safe or secure place to call home. One in four homeless Australians is under the age of 25. Of those, 6,000 are experiencing homelessness in Victoria – most of whom are in Melbourne. In one of the world’s most liveable cities, this is unacceptable. 

To determine how many people in Australia are experiencing homelessness, the ABS counts people who are living somewhere temporarily, in a boarding house, living in supported accommodation, sleeping in cars, tents or unsafe housing, and living in overcrowded housing. 
Young people experiencing homelessness are often hidden from view, sleeping on couches, in cars, refuges or overcrowded houses. 

According to the ABS, they define someone as homeless if their current living arrangement is:

  • In an inadequate dwelling; or
  • has no tenure, or if their initial tenure is short and not extendable; or 
  • Does not allow them to have control of or, access to space for social relations. 

Through no fault of their own, young people often experience homelessness due to family breakdown, neglect and family violence. These experiences, and the experience of homelessness itself, can lead to significant trauma with long-lasting effects, including on a young person’s mental health and wellbeing. 

We’re working hard to end youth homelessness 

MCM is the largest youth homelessness service provider in Victoria and has a well-established reputation in the sector for tackling the root causes of homelessness and working toward supporting young people out of homelessness and into adult independence. MCM operates five youth accommodation centres, among them is Frontyard Youth Services – Australia’s largest 24-hour emergency crisis accommodation centre for young people experiencing or at risk of becoming homeless. 

Earlier this year we announced, together with the Property Industry Foundation, a $3.5 million investment from the Victorian Government to open a high quality, purpose-built youth refuge to break the cycle of youth homelessness in Melbourne’s inner west. 

With two family units to accommodate infants and families, the redevelopment of MCM’s youth refuge will give young people aged 15-25 a chance to grow into adult independence with a level of support they currently don’t have. 

Our new refuge comes as a concerning number of young people are experiencing homelessness in the City of Wyndham, which increased by 76 per cent in the last five years. On census night, 730 people identified as homeless. Of those, 384 – over half – were aged between 12-24 years old (ABS 2016). 

What can I do to help young people during COVID-19?

We need your support more than ever before, to help us genuinely end youth homelessness in Melbourne and more widely in Victoria. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed life as we know it, and in ways, we would have never had imagined possible just a few months ago. Young people who have already been experiencing mental health issues are suffering more trauma because of the uncertainty and anxiety of needing to self-isolate when they don’t have a home to go to and who are entirely disconnected from family, friends, communities and supports. Face to face services are limited, and most are now online, yet many young people don’t have access to the technology to be able to get help. 

In these unprecedented times, we are reminded on Youth Homelessness Matters day to reach out to some of Melbourne’s most at-risk young people, so that we can help them get through this. No one should be left behind in a crisis. 

Wayne Merritt
General Manager, Homelessness, Justice & Family Services  

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