Hope for homeless

Hope Street new youth homelessness refuge in Melton South. Pic of chief executive Donna Bennett. Photo by Damjan Janevski. 211491_01

Ewen McRae

By Ewen McRae

A state-of-the-art youth homeless refuge is about to open its doors in Melton.

The Hope Street First Response Youth Service will provide short-term crisis accommodation and 24/7 support to more than 100 young people (16-25 years old) and young families experiencing homelessness each year.

Until now, the nearest refuge for homeless youth was in Sunshine.

Hope Street chief executive Donna Bennett said it was a landmark moment for a sector that has unfortunately seen high demand for it’s services as the local population boom continues.

“The CBD is widely seen as the centre of Melbourne’s homelessness problem, and that’s where majority of support is seen to be focused, however this doesn’t address the larger issues in outer suburban areas,” Ms Bennett said.

“This is exactly why we’ve invested in this Melton facility. Our services will provide critical homelessness support to young people in Melbourne’s north-western growth corridors at a time when it is needed most, allowing them to receive the support they need whilst remaining connected to their local community.

“Hope Street has been supporting the community for nearly 40 years and will continue to do so. We want people to know that we are here and listening, as we know so many people are in need of help during the COVID-19 recovery phase and beyond.”

Hope Street has been operating out of temporary accommodation for the past 15 months, and in that time, it has supported more than 140 young people.

The new refuge is funded by the state government, built on land provided by Melton City Council and supported with cash and in-kind contributions from about 40 local businesses and philanthropic partners as well as donations from local community members.

The facility incorporates an eight bedroom refuge, a two-bedroom family unit and an administration building.

It also provides a base from which a mobile outreach service will operate, providing support to an additional 100 young people per year.

Melton mayor Lara Carli said improving support for the most vulnerable in the community was important for the growing region.

“We’re proud to have partnered with Hope Street on this outstanding project which we know will help ensure the best possible outcomes for our residents who need it most,“ Cr Carli said.

“To have safe and supported local accommodation for people to turn to when they’re in need is so important to our council.

“This new facility will make a meaningful difference to vulnerable young people in our community who are experiencing homelessness and hardship.”

State housing minister Richard Wynne said facilities like this were vital to helping young people escape homelessness.

“This new facility shows what great partnerships between state and local government and the community sector can deliver,“ Mr Wynne said.

“This project will ensure young Victorians who need support will receive the comfort and security of a bed and a roof over their heads so they can get back on track.

“Getting a job, studying and participating in the community is much more achievable with a safe and secure roof over your head. This new facility will help break the cycle of homelessness so young people can get back on their feet.”

Hope Street intends to take its First Response Youth Service to Whittlesea next, on land that has already been committed to by Whittlesea council.