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Youth Homelessness Matters Day

Youth Homelessness Matters Day 2024

Across Australia in 2022-23, almost 39,000 young people (15-24 years of age) presented alone to a specialist homelessness service. Of these young people, the majority were in need of short or long term accommodation.

Half of the young people who tried to get a bed in a crisis refuge in 2022-23 were turned away because services couldn’t accommodate them.

Around a third of young people that presented to specialist homelessness services had experienced domestic and family violence. And, around a third of young people presenting along to specialist homelessness services identified as Indigenous to Australia.

It is becoming clear, according to Yfoundations, the broader rental, housing and cost of living crisis is putting more pressure on homeless service providers and making it harder for children and young people to find a home.

Yfoundations is the peak body for youth homelessness in NSW. For over 40 years, yfoundations has represented and advocated for children and young people at risk of and experiencing homelessness, and the services that support them. 

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Specialist Homelessness Services (SHS) data 202-23 advises that the capacity of homelessness services has fallen by almost 17,000 clients a year and services face a $73 million funding shortfall from June 2024 (Yfoundations media release, December 2023.)

In 2022-23, three in 10 clients at specialist homelessness services (SHS) were under the age of 18. Almost 40,000 of SHS clients in 2022-23 were children and young people (15-24) presenting on their own. Similar to previous years, females and First Nations people were overrepresented in these figures.

Yfoundations

Wednesday April 17, 2024 is Youth Homelessness Matters Day. It’s a national day that aims to raise awareness and public discussion about child and youth homelessness. It’s been held every year since 1990 and has grown into a national commemoration of young people’s resilience. It’s also a day for yfoundations and other services like The Burdekin Association to seek innovative solutions to support the needs of children and young people at risk of or currently experiencing homelessness. It’s a day that’s showcased online and in communities around Australia.

“Every day in 2022/23, 295 people who needed a crisis bed or help were turned away because services were at capacity. We believe, these numbers will be much higher in reality, because we know that children and young people will couch surf, remain in violent homes, or sleep rough because they have no idea that services exist. Even if they did, the report demonstrates they are unlikely to get a bed tonight because services are full.”

Trish Connolly, yfoundations CEO

Yfoundations is hoping that these statistics will be taken into consideration when the federal government develops the National Housing and Homelessness Plan and Agreement this year.

Yfoundations’ view is that the solution lies in increasing the funding for crisis homelessness services, so that children and young people are not living in unsafe and violent situations, and that the federal government commits to standalone homelessness and housing plans to end child and youth homelessness. Their submission aims to demonstrate how failures of the child protection system and other service systems have had significant impacts on the youth homelessness service system.

The plan will need to respond to the diversity and complexity of young people at risk of or experiencing homelessness to support their transition into a future of self reliance and wellbeing. It should be part of a national approach in responding to housing supply shortages.

To find out more about Youth Homelessness Matters Day, click here.

Meet Rae, our Education Specialist…

Education Specialist, Rae Usman, at The Burdekin Association's Learning Space

Rae Usman is a one-of-a kind. A qualified teacher, she also has extensive experience in the recruitment industry, where she provided careers guidance and resumé building opportunities. The combination of these skills has meant that she is able to comprehensively support the young people who come to her at The Burdekin Association’s Learning Space at Addi Road Community Organisation in Marrickville.

69 per cent of the children and young people who come to The Burdekin Association are unable to attend or participate effectively in learning provided through the Department of Education, due to their unique personal situations.

Rae Usman’s knowledge of positive psychology – derived from working with students at a hospital – has informed her teaching practice at The Burdekin Association’s Learning Space.

Her approach is based on the idea that the wellbeing of the young people comes first. It means that she meets each child where they are on the learning continuum and does her best to foster a positive learning environment.

“Research indicates and my experience has revealed, that if we don’t look after the child’s wellbeing first, then it makes it very difficult for learning to occur.”

Rae Usman, Education Specialist at The Burdekin Association

Social – emotional learning (SEL) needs are high on the agenda for young people attending the Learning Space. They often find it hard to self regulate, have poor self perceptions of themselves, which feeds into incorrect assumptions about themselves. They may say things, like “I’m dumb, I can’t do it”. Rae tries to flip the script for them by teaching them a positive sense of self, promoting healthy relationships, and building capacity to manage behaviours, emotions and interactions with others.

The Learning Space at The Burdekin Association, Addi Road Community Organisation, Marrickville.

The Learning Space at Addi Road Community Organisation in Marrickville.

Advocating for the young people is part of Rae’s role. Her main goal is to transition the young people back to their home school by building their confidence to return or supporting them into an alternative school or educational pathway.

Unfortunately, young people with unmet literacy needs are likely to have low educational attainment, earn less income and are more likely to be unemployed.

Trauma informed training helps…

“Sometimes the young people have learning difficulties that have been undiagnosed, or they struggle to learn. The impact of trauma can lead to a range of behaviours and complexities which present in learning environments.”

Rae Usman, Education Specialist at The Burdekin Association

Rae has completed trauma informed training with The Burdekin Association, which she has found to be valuable in assisting her to recognise the needs in the young people in our care.

Rae Usman, Education Specialist at The Burdekin Association

Rae Usman, outside the Learning Space at Addi Road Community Organisation

She knows to look outside of the behaviour that would typically attract a comment of ‘what is wrong with them?’, but rather Rae looks beyond the behaviours and through trauma lens and attempts to determine what she can do to better support the young person to learn.

Rae tries to develop strategies for each of the young people she sees by using a resilience meter and/or an emotional wheel for when they attend that day. She asks them to mark or point to how they are feeling, so she can then gauge where is the best place to start the lesson on that day.

“They might tell me that they are feeling stressed or they may display some characteristics of hypervigilance, so we’ll do some calming activities before we get into the learning. If they’re feeling sad or in a low mood, we may need to play music or a game together. The game may incorporate numeracy or literacy and I can witness their literacy and numeracy skills in action. Most kids like a game. It doesn’t matter their age.”

Rae Usman, Education Specialist at The Burdekin Association

Age range of attending students…

Rae typically sees young people aged between 12 and 18 years of age for one hour to three hours at a time. Predominantly it’s the Year 9, 14-15 years age bracket that she sees most.

“Of all the year groups at high school, Year 9 is the pointy end. The young people have a lot happening at this age, they are going through physical, emotional, social and cognitive changes which can have implications with how they engage at school,” Rae said.

“Evidence has shown that Year 9 is the time when young people typically tend to disengage from school, they may no longer see school as important or feel like they don’t have the academic skills to continue. So, I thought if The Burdekin Association implements some preventative measures, particularly with some of our younger children we may catch them before this becomes an issue. As a result, we will have after school hours tutors who will be able to provide extra literacy and numeracy support and build on these vital foundation skills our young people often miss out on.”

Rae Usman, Education Specialist at The Burdekin Association

Last year, Rae supported a young person with ADHD and dyslexia undertake their Year 11 studies. A learning support team came out from Sydney Distance Education, and they discussed with Rae how as a team they could all support this student. The young person came three times a week, Rae acted as scribe for them and they participated in online Zoom meetings, completed assessments and tests and overall had a positive outcome which would not have otherwise happened.

Young people’s life and social skills are an important consideration for Rae. The students participate in activities such as cooking, going to the local food co-op to purchase food, have discussions about sustainability and visit the local community garden, along with assisting with caring for the therapy pet, Toothless.

“I think it’s important that the young people don’t see the world as big and scary, but it’s somewhere that they can navigate. I know that our wonderful Burdekin Team do the same thing. It’s great that I can reinforce the great work all of our staff do with our young people.”

Rae Usman, Education Specialist at The Burdekin Association

We’ve been awarded a FutureSteps Grant!

Stanmore House, a property to be renovated using the FutureSteps grant program.

The Burdekin Association is excited to reveal that we are the recipient of a FutureSteps Grant of $89,000 to be spent on renovating one of the houses we manage for young people transitioning from out of home care to semi-independent living in Sydney. The grant will help three additional young people transition into semi-independent living through the better use of space in the property. 

What is FutureSteps?

FutureSteps is a Lendlease Social Impact Fund that’s grounded in the belief that everyone needs to call a place home. Lendlease partners with The Burdekin Association to achieve long term impact through increasing the availability of safe and appropriate housing, the number of pathways to education and employment, and participation in the community. 

The FutureSteps Social Impact Fund focuses on addressing homelessness and increasing housing supply for those at risk of or experiencing homelessness. The grants typically awarded range in amounts between $20,000 and $100,000 and one of their target groups includes young people. 

It all came about on Community Day – a day when Lendlease volunteers spend their time and skills to make a difference in the communities where they live and work. Thirty volunteers spent a day at our property doing painting, gardening, picture hanging, furniture building and much more in Stanmore. Katherine Bushell from Lendlease suggested that we apply for the FutureSteps grant. It took us one month to put it all together.

Claire Oxlade, Property and Asset Lead at The Burdekin Association

“Our tradie, Kevin, looked at our plans to reconfigure the layout of the space at the property to accommodate three more young people. He suggested that it would work,” continued Claire.  

During the grant application process, we submitted the property’s plans, renovation costings, and explained how we would reconfigure the layout of the property to create the extra space for an additional three young people in our care. For Lendlease to give us the entire grant – $89,000 – is amazing! We will be able to use the space more sensibly.

Claire Oxlade, Property and Asset Lead at The Burdekin Association

A self-contained two-bedroom unit can now be created at the front of the property. This reconfiguration will help to provide wraparound care for the young person living there – as they will remain close to staff and the other young people living in the remainder of the house, but also have space to themselves. It will potentially be perfect for a young single parent, who may need support, but also privacy and quiet.

The reconfiguration will also involve the renovation of the current staff office space and combined kitchen into a studio staff office / bedroom / kitchenette. 

“The staff at the property use the office a great deal, and renovating the current space to allow them to work and then be able to sleep overnight in a comfortable area will make such a difference,” Claire continued.

A staff bedroom upstairs at the property will then be released, to be used by an additional young person. 

The project has enthused local architect and sessional academic, Jamileh Jahangiri of Orsi Architecture Studio, who met with Burdekin staff members during a recent networking event. She has offered to provide her architectural knowledge free of charge and will project manage the renovation of the property. Jamileh will provide concept designs, design briefs and a schedule of proposed materials and finishes and furniture layouts. She is keen to see how the young residents can be involved in the renovation process – choosing paint colours, designing the layout of the rooms, and learning a bit of design along the way. 

If there are funds remaining once these renovations are complete, we hope to remove the kitchen cabinets, making the main kitchen more open plan, allowing for ‘Master Chef’ style cooking workshops to be held for the young people.

It’s so exciting. We wouldn’t normally be able to do anything like this. If we can make it more homely, well that’s my mission accomplished

Claire Oxlade, Property and Asset Lead at The Burdekin Association

What next?

The Burdekin Association is always looking for suppliers of white goods – fridges, washing machines, dryers, microwaves, air fryers and blenders, along with coffee tables, BBQs, outdoor furniture and kitchen utensils – to help our young people live comfortably in such a home. To donate a white good or to help our young people, please click here.  

Causes of youth homelessness – family breakdown

The Burdekin Association youth homelessness services

Family breakdown is one of the leading causes of youth homelessness in Australia today.

According to AIHW, in 2020–21, around 41,700 people aged 15–24 presented alone to SHS agencies, accounting for 15% of all SHS clients.

The main reasons these young people presented were:

  • family and domestic violence (17% or around 7,000 clients).
  • housing crisis (17% or around 7,000 clients).
  • relationship/family breakdown (13% or over 5,200 clients).

Other reasons include:

  • Difficult family situations such as parental drug and alcohol abuse, abuse, neglect
  • Leaving a parental home without stable employment
  • Leaving state care without an appropriate plan in place
  • Mental illness
  • Alcohol and other drug issues
  • Rejection or trauma associated with gender identity or expression
  • Discrimination in the private rental market due to lower income or lack of rental references
  • Insecure employment
  • Less access to social housing

Homelessness and the LGBTIQA+ community

In 2019 the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society (ARCSHS) at La Trobe University, with support from Rainbow Health Australia and Rainbow Network conducted a report called Writing Themselves in 4. Researchers asked 6,418 LGBTIQA+ people, aged 14 to 21 about their experiences with education, homelessness, harassment, assault, mental health, community connections and more.

23.6 per cent had experienced homelessness and for 11.5 per cent it was in the past year. This was often directly related to family rejection of participants being LGBTIQA+.

In the Snapshot of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Statistics for LGBTQIA+ People from LGBTIQA+ LGBTIQA+ Health Australia. Young people aged 16 to 17 were over three times more likely to report high or very high levels of psychological distress.

The Journeys Home report found that Family rejection was a major issue for LGBTIQA+ people, and their pathway to homelessness is more complex with discrimination also coming from the housing sector.

Getting help

There are a large number of support services available today, both for young people and their families. Having open conversations about sexuality and gender is helpful, as is keeping an open mind and above all letting your child know they are loved and accepted for who they are. If you are a parent who is having a hard time, getting support from any of these organisations may be helpful. You can also ask us, we assist families and community with a range of support services.

We believe everyone deserves to feel safe, to be loved and have a home. Let us know if you found this article helpful or if there is anything you would add?

Celebrating our Volunteers

Burdekin youth support services

Our Volunteer Program was launched in 2020 during National Volunteer Week and every year since, we celebrate our volunteers and their contribution to the organisation with a nice meal, warm words and certificates of appreciation. Check out the photos below, it could be you next year if you want to become part of our Burdekin family.

We have all been inspired by our Burdekin volunteers this week. Our regular volunteers act as role models and mentors to a young person. They turn up consistently for two hours each week to do an agreed activity e.g. cooking a meal, L driving hours or education support. We also celebrated with our very special volunteers, our Foster Carers ,who have been thoroughly assessed and authorised as Burdekin Foster Carers and have given a young person a caring, nurturing home.

One of our foster carers shared:

“I have always wanted to foster a teenager but just this year, the time has become right to do it. Even though it’s been challenging at times, it is so worthwhile to provide a safe home where she has been able to relax and feel she belongs.”

We are so grateful for people in our community who step out of their comfort zone and choose to connect with a young person who needs trusted adult role models in their life.

We need more volunteers in South East and Inner West Sydney, to inquire, please email us at: volunteer@burdekin.org.au.

We acknowledge the Aboriginal people of the Cadigal and Gayamaygal Clans. We acknowledge the Country on which we live, work, and gather as being Aboriginal land.

We acknowledge the lands, waterways and skies that are connected to Aboriginal people. We honour them and pay our deepest respects to their Elders past, present and emerging.

We respect their rightful place within our communities, and we value their ancient cultural knowledge and practices.

Aboriginal Flag
Torres Straight Island Flag

We deeply respect that this will always be Aboriginal land and we will honour and follow the first peoples’ values in caring for the Country and for preserving their culture.

We deeply value that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are the oldest living culture in the world and we will continue to work with their peoples and communities to ensure their cultures endure and remain strong.