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We need to talk about youth homelessness

Being a young person in society is hard enough. You’re trying to work out who you are and how you fit into the wider world and are beginning to build the skills needed to survive as an adult. But doing that without a stable place to call home, where you feel safe and supported, just makes that even more difficult.  

Youth Homelessness Matters 

Today is Youth Homelessness Matters Day – a time to shine a spotlight on the one in six young people (15 – 19) in Australia who have been homeless at some stage in their lives (Mission Australia, 2020). On Census Night in 2016, 24,200 young people were experiencing homelessness – making up around 21% of the homeless population.  

Homelessness doesn’t always look like sleeping on the street – especially for young people. It can mean couch-surfing, staying in crisis or temporary accommodation or sleeping in your car. 

First Nations youth experience homelessness at a much higher rate than the rest of the population. This is due to severe and entrenched socioeconomic disadvantage, a severe shortage of appropriate housing in remote locations and a history of systematic racism. 

LGBTIQA+ youth also experience homelessness at twice the rate of heterosexual young people. This is often due to discrimination, harassment, violence, family conflict and ignorance. Young LGBTIQA+ people experiencing homelessness may also find it more difficult to find housing and support services that accept and support them. 

Finding Stability at CASY House 

In Darwin, YWCA Australia operates CASY House – crisis accommodation that provides a safe home, meals and other supports for young people aged 15-18 who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Many of the young people that come to live at CASY House are escaping domestic and family violence or come from homes where they’re not receiving the support they need to grow into happy, healthy adults.

Think of all the things your parent supported you with – booking doctor’s appointments, helping you organise your first drivers’ license and making big life decisions, like whether to study or go straight into full time work. CASY House provides this support, and more, to the young people that live there.  

“I like to think that we are breaking poverty cycles, improving social equality and empowering the next generation.” – Caseworker, CASY House 

While residing at CASY House, young people learn the necessary skills – things like budgeting, cooking, cleaning and advocating for themselves – to establish their independence and confidence in the future. We support them to find appropriate, stable longer-term accommodation, whatever that may be.   

“For any young person, living by yourself is a massive responsibility and with little support can become unbearable. I can’t imagine how I would have coped with gaining independence at a young age without having to be fortunate enough to have stumbled across YWCA.  

Having a safe, secure and affordable residence at CASY House has made the experience of having to deal with finding an accommodation as well as prioritising my responsibilities at school and work so much easier. It has lifted a lot of stress and depression that comes from being homeless and has encouraged me to stay driven and motivated to accomplish great things.”- Former Client, CASY House 

The best way to support young people who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness is through services like CASY House, where young people are provided not just a safe place to live, but the necessary supports to help them gain independence and build a life they want for themselves.  

This election, we are calling for a National Homelessness Strategy that addresses the issues driving youth homelessness, including domestic and family violence and limited access to tailored support services. A safe and stable home is the foundation we all need to create the future we want, and young people need this foundation more than anyone.  

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