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Homelessness Week this year runs from 4-10 August. With this timely reminder focusing our attention, it’s clear that Concern Australia’s work to support young people experiencing homelessness or vulnerable situations is more important than ever before.

Supporting the faces behind the statistics

Every week, our Steps Outreach Service team builds long-term relationships with the faces behind the harsh statistics as they support the young people they meet in Melbourne’s CBD.

And the numbers are indeed confronting. Between 2006 and 2016, homelessness increased by 30% across the nation. Right now, more than 116,000 Australians are experiencing homelessness, and 195,000 people are on social housing waiting lists.

But most profoundly, two out of every five people experiencing homelessness is under 25. Homelessness in people aged 12-24 has increased by 9.9% in five years – that’s 27,683 young people across the nation who don’t have a home.

In Victoria, where we do most of our work, homelessness has a huge impact; 20% of Australia’s homeless population live in Victoria, and 39% of Victorians counted as homeless on Census night were under 25. That’s 9,742 young people with no home.

And many of them are children. The available research tells us that children under 18 make up 27% of people experiencing homelessness, and this is likely to be an undercount. More than 70,000 people supported by homelessness services in 2014-15 were children aged 0-17.

Steps Outreach Service Manager Anne Mitchell has worked with hundreds of young people she has met in Melbourne’s CBD.

“Young people can become homeless for a whole range of reasons, but the reality is that without a safe, stable home, they don’t have a foundation for building for the future,” Anne said. “Attending school, finding and keeping a job, or developing a supportive community are extremely difficult if you don’t have somewhere to live.”

Each week Anne and the Steps team deepen relationships with young people experiencing homelessness. “We walk with these young people, building safe, supportive long-term relationships, helping them to find accommodation and connecting them to the many different services that they need. More than 90% of the young people I’ve worked with are now in stable housing, and they have a foundation for the future.

“We don’t receive any Government funding. We’re so grateful for all those people who contribute to keep our work going, but we need more support so we can keep making a difference in the lives of these young people.”

Stable homes for young people

This year’s Homelessness Week theme is ‘Housing Ends Homelessness’. Our Inside Out program provides supportive homes for some of the most complex young people who might otherwise be at risk of becoming homeless.

According to the Council for Homeless Persons, young people leaving youth justice centres and out-of-home care face a high risk of becoming homeless. The opportunity to share a home with a live-in mentor can support such young people on the journey to independence, and help prevent them from falling into homelessness.

We are looking for people who can volunteer as live-in mentors. Live-in mentors can be couples or singles who live rent-free in a shared house with 1 or 2 young people aged 16-19 who are learning how to live independently. If you’re ready to make a difference in a young person’s life, contact Emmah on 0452 249 466 or email: emmah.williams@concernaustralia.org.au

Calling for a national solution

“We’re doing all that we can through Steps and Inside Out to support young people who fall through the cracks and end up homeless and vulnerable, and to support those who are at risk of homelessness,” said Anne. “But at the end of the day, homelessness is a national crisis and all levels of government need to work together to fix it – and that means providing more homes.

“This Homelessness Week, we’re asking you to join us and many others in calling for a national plan to end homelessness and a national housing strategy to deliver 500,000 social and affordable rental homes. Please support the Everybody’s Home campaign and sign the online petition.”

Sign the Everybody’s Home petition.

Donate to support the work of Steps Outreach Service.

Homelessness Week runs from Sunday, August 4 to Saturday, August 10. The theme this year is: ‘Housing Ends Homelessness’.