Vinnies programs support Youth Homelessness Matters Day

As rates of youth homelessness continue to climb, April 5, Youth Homelessness Matters Day, is becoming more and more significant. Currently around 40 per cent of those experiencing homelessness in Australia are under 25. And school-going children made up 14 per cent of the people seeking help from homelessness services last year–an increase of 83 per cent in three years.

Family violence, mental health and the lack of employment are some of the cumulative causes for this growing crisis.

NAPLAN results and educational achievement are also falling, and one in four young people experience mental health issues. Youth unemployment rates have failed to recover since the 1990s, with youth underemployment at its highest in  40 years, and a third of young people between 15 and 24 unemployed or underemployed.

According to Jack de Groot, CEO St Vincent de Paul Society NSW, many of the services for young people fall to the charity sector to provide.

“Vinnies NSW runs a variety of programs, from emergency accommodation and case management to job training and early intervention programs such as KEEP (Kids Engaged in Education Program),” he said.

“KEEP works with children and young people under 18 years. The focus is on intervening early and working with children and their families to prevent further disadvantage and repeated homelessness.”

Kelsie Hedge, KEEP Project Manager, explains: “Many of the children who come to our services have experienced trauma which can affect their learning and development. KEEP strives to identify and address gaps in the support offered, and create programs and partnerships to address these.”  

In a recent survey by the Office for the Advocate for Children and Young People, young people experiencing homelessness were asked what their biggest fears were. How to afford food and extreme housing costs were two of their leading concerns, as well as feeling invisible and low awareness of the problem of youth homelessness.

Kelsie explains: “You can imagine the impact homelessness has on a child’s ability to  learn and thrive, both in the classroom and in the community. KEEP is there to give the support children and their families to stay in school–education is a key part of creating positive social change for these vulnerable people’s futures.”

With the support of generous partners Sydney Airports and Genworth, KEEP is being developed and expanded first in Sydney and then statewide, helping prevent youth homelessness now and into the future.