Sharing Melton’s approach to youth homelessness

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

Hope Street chief executive Donna Bennett will speak at the National Children and Youth Homelessness Conference on Monday, July 24, to share Melton’s leading youth housing support service’s innovative model with the wider sector.

Hope Street’s First Response Youth Service has helped about 850 young people in the Melton area who are at risk of or experiencing homelessness since 2018.

Hope Street’s support model is a hybrid that combines supported crisis accommodation, assertive outreach and flexible brokerage.

Ms Bennett said the service is a fantastic example of thinking outside the square.

“We need to constantly be looking at how we deliver our services, being innovative, including young people in the conversation and learning from their experience,” she said.

Innovative approaches Hope Street has taken to address youth homelessness include tailoring outreach around its demographic, going to meet at-risk young people where they are to offer support, and operating its service during hours young people are more likely to connect such as in the evenings or on Saturdays.

Hope Street also has an individualised service that includes flexible brokerage, which provides financial assistance to help young people continue with school, get medical assistance and establish themselves in more stable accommodation.

Ms Bennett said it’s important to tailor services to suit young people’s stage of growth.

“Young people’s brains are still growing and because they’ve experienced trauma their neurological development will have slowed, so we need to be mindful of that,” she said.

“There’s difficulty navigating systems … looking at the big picture and thinking long-term in decisions.”

Ms Bennett said Victoria leads the way for innovation in addressing youth homelessness, but there’s more work needed to establish youth-focused models, more affordable housing and ongoing support.

“The whole community benefits from supporting vulnerable groups like young people who are homeless,” she said.

“If they’re more stable it’s less likely they’ll impact businesses, visitors, and it improves community health and wellbeing

“We also know it’s a very cost effective way of addressing youth homelessness in the community.”

Ms Bennet said the conference is a fantastic opportunity for practitioners, managers and people with an interest in youth homelessness to come together.

Liam McNally