Health and wellbeing blogs

Exploring misconceptions around youth homelessness

To mark the start of Homelessness Week 2018, St John of God Social Outreach Youth and Accommodation Services Director Ros Fahey explores the misconceptions surrounding youth homelessness in Australia and how St John of God Horizon House offers young people at risk of homelessness a place to call home.

 Horizon House residents

Misconceptions around youth homelessness

According to Homelessness Australia, of the more than 116,000 homeless people in Australia, 32 per cent are aged 12 to 24.

One of the biggest misconceptions around youth homelessness in Australia is that all young people who are homeless are sleeping rough on the streets but this is not necessarily the case.

Many of these young people are living in unsafe or unstable accommodation, couch surfing and regularly moving between the homes of friends and extended family with many regularly exposed to violence and abuse.

Homelessness is the result of people coming up against a series of complex barriers that prevent them from accessing safe and sustainable accommodation.

For young people this can occur due to a variety of reasons including but not limited to family breakdown, family violence, death of a parent, mental health issues and overcrowding in family homes.

The impacts of homelessness and social stigma can be devastating and extend through every facet of a young person’s life.

A culture of blaming and lack of understanding regarding the causes of homelessness are common challenges for young people.

There is often a lack of understanding within communities of the impact these barriers have for these young people.

When young people are living in an overcrowded house and / or in a living arrangement that is unsafe it limits their ability to attend school, training and employment and engage positively with the community.

This can result in undiagnosed mental health issues which if left untreated may create complex problems for the young people.

By intervening early with the right support, we can help prevent this from happening.

How Horizon House helps

All young people who engage in the Horizon House program are supported to access education, training and / or employment opportunities and take part in a life skills program that teaches them essential skills such as cooking, cleaning, developing skills and capacity to form health relationships and personal budgeting that they require in order to live independently.

The Horizon House program operating out of Victoria and Western Australia offers three stages of accommodation to help the young person make the gradual transition to independent living.

These stages vary from intensive support to transitional semi-independent accommodation and support, and finally supported independent living.

Horizon House aims to prevent vulnerable young people aged 16 to 22 from entering the cycle of homelessness by providing a range of stable, secure long-term accommodation options and supporting them to set and achieve individual goals.

The Horizon House Program is unique because it provides early intervention that aims to build a young person’s capacity to achieve and maintain safe accommodation, reconnect with the community and participate in employment, training and education opportunities.

Horizon House also provides specialist support for vulnerable young mothers and their babies through the Horizon House Young Mother and Baby Program, which is currently available in Perth and Bendigo, and for young Aboriginal men living in Broome, WA.

We can all play a part in dismantling the stigma around youth homelessness by promoting positive stories and acknowledging the challenges many young people have to overcome to remain connected to the community.

If you would like to make a donation to Horizon House please visit the St John of God Foundation.

Ros Fahey St John of God Social Outreach Director Youth and Accommodation Services

About the Author

Ros Fahey is Director Youth and Accommodation Services at St John of God Social Outreach. She has extensive experience managing the delivery of geographically dispersed services within the health and community sector. Under Ros’ leadership the Horizon House Program has grown significantly, notably opening two new houses in Victoria in 2017 which led to a record number of young people being supported last financial year.

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