Call to address youth homelessness

Hope Street chief executive Donna Bennett. (Damjan Janevski) 309786_02

Liam McNally

A coalition of more than 60 organisations, including Melton’s Hope Street Youth and Family Services, has thrown its support behind ending youth homelessness in Victoria.

The organisations sent a letter to the leaders of both major parties, calling for a new strategy on youth homelessness.

The signatories include peak bodies, youth services, homelessness and housing organisations, health, legal and family services.

Of the 8830 young people that approached homelessness services in Victoria last year, 5060 were turned away, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

One in six people seeking homelessness assistance last year was aged between 15 and 24.

In Victoria, only 541 transitional and 66 long-term properties are designated for young people.

Council to Homeless Persons chief executive Jenny Smith said the “massive” gap between the amount of young people seeking help and social housing designated for young people is now a “crisis”.

“Young people are becoming trapped in homelessness because Victoria doesn’t have sufficient resourcing or a joined-up system to prevent and respond to youth homelessness.”

Hope Street Youth and Family Services chief executive Donna Bennet said youth homelessness rates in Melton are “very high”.

A 2021 Hope Street report said main contributing factors to youth homelessness in Australia are rising housing affordability and domestic and family violence.

Police statistics show Melton had the third highest rate in greater Melbourne of family violence specialist service clients between 2016 and June 2021.

Ms Bennett said living costs and COVID’s impact on the causal workforce have also impacted youth homelessness.

“We’ve got some very big figures where young people aren’t receiving a service, and importantly do not have somewhere safe to live,” she said.

“For us [the letter is] about saying that this is unacceptable. This is an unacceptable social situation for a first world nation like Australia.”

“When you provide those essential items for young people they do thrive, and they do go on to some amazing things.”