Did you know that over a third of Australians experiencing homelessness are young people? It’s a confronting statistic. Alone, abandoned, struggling and unable to cope with the ongoing challenge of not having a place to call home, life has become so much harder due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jamie is a teenage girl who was sleeping rough on the streets of Melbourne before the pandemic started. Thanks to the Victorian Government’s response, she is now in temporary hotel accommodation.
While her immediate need for shelter and safety is met, it doesn’t address other critical challenges she faces. Feeling trapped and alone, Jamie felt isolated and her anxiety increased. When our Steps Outreach Service arrived to give her a care pack and groceries, Jamie told them that she hadn’t eaten since lunchtime the day before. She’d been too scared to go to the supermarket.
We were so pleased we were able to support Jamie during this crisis. It’s young people like her who need our help the most right now.
A crucial fundraising event at risk
The Steps for Youth Homelessness team celebrates the completion of the 2019 event.
One of the ways we support our young people is raising funds through our annual Run Melbourne event. Its postponement this year has been particularly tough.
“Each year, funds raised through Run Melbourne make up a huge part of the Steps operating budget, allowing us to continue to support some of the most vulnerable young people in our community who are experiencing homelessness and fragility in their housing situation,” said Steps Outreach Service Manager Anne Mitchell.
“Thankfully, the organisers soon released information about a virtual event for this year – and we are calling for all the support we can get in the lead up.”
The main Run Melbourne event has been postponed until November, but the Steps Outreach Service Run Melbourne team are focusing their efforts, and their vital fundraising activities, on the Run Melbourne Virtual Event taking place on the weekend of 25 and 26 July.
Teams can complete a walk or run of 21.1km, 10km or 5km in one hit across the weekend, or over successive days, and track their progress with an online app.
While the Steps team will be limited to meeting in groups of two, we can’t wait to throw our trainers on and get jogging.
“Lockdown has been a disappointment,” Anne said. “It would have been great to get together and have a coffee afterwards, all sit down and share together, and build on those relationships. That’s what keeps people coming back and supporting us each year. But we’re still so grateful for everyone who has joined the team and is raising funds to support these vulnerable young people.”
The Steps Run Melbourne team includes Concern Australia staff, representatives from Currie & Brown, St Hilary’s Women on Thursday group, Northside Rotary Club, and other friends and supporters of the Steps Outreach Service. All doing their bit to make a difference. And what a year to be making a difference.
Our team needs to raise $20,000. But they’re falling short, with $13,000 pledged so far.
They need your help right now to hit their target.
Making a real difference for young people
“The annual Run Melbourne event is vitally important because Steps doesn’t receive Government funding, and it’s harder than ever to access grants because of COVID-19,” Anne said.
“It’s the main part of our fundraising for the year. Now, more than ever, young people need our help. We know people donate because they care. We know they want to be there for vulnerable young people right now, and supporting our team effort for Run Melbourne is a great way of doing this.”
An issue that is top of mind each day is what will happen when these young people lose their access to emergency hotel accommodation? Anne said donations to the Steps team will ensure they have more time to spend with them and support them on their journey to stability.
“Like Jamie, a lot of them are anxious and isolated, and COVID-19 is impacting their mental health. We’re meeting them outside their properties and giving them groceries and care packs. While we are practising social distancing, obeying regulations and staying safe, seeing them face-to-face is vital for encouraging the young people and ensuring they know that they are cared for and not alone. This is so important, because a lot of services they might usually connect with have had no choice but to close their physical operations.
“We’re also addressing the technology poverty that these young people face. They often don’t have the right equipment to do virtual meetings, and some of them don’t even have phones, so we’re using donations to help them get the technology that they need to stay in touch and maintain their mental health.
“Because many of these young people don’t drive, they can’t go to multiple supermarkets looking for items that are out of stock or hard to find, and they can’t order online because they don’t have a credit card, the technology, or a permanent address. Often they don’t even have ID. The support that we provide is crucial.”
Run Melbourne donations have real impact
Anne said that without the option of the Virtual Run Melbourne event to encourage people to donate, the consequences could have been dire.
“We would have had to cut down on staffing hours. It would have been terrible. Helping young people like Jamie is all about relationships, spending time, showing them that you’re there for them. It makes such a difference.”
As one young person said to the Steps team recently:
“You have been there for many years and have helped me through the battles that have made me who I am now. I couldn’t have done it without you.”
The Steps Run Melbourne team needs to raise at least $20,000 through the virtual event. Please support them by donating and spreading the word to your friends, family and connections so we can continue to support young people experiencing homelessness in these difficult times.