Sleeping rough isn’t the only way young people experience homelessness. Credit: Flickr

Posted by & filed under Inner West Independent.

BY JESSICA HILL

Homelessness advocates have praised the Inner West Council for adopting a new Homelessness Policy, but believe it needs further development when it comes to helping young people.

Youth Off The Streets partnered with the council to give input into the new policy and is the main youth homelessness service operating in the Inner West.

James Townsend, the Program Manager for the Youth Off The Street’s Inner West Youth Homelessness Service, said the Inner West Council’s new policy is a step in the right direction but it needs to focus on all types of homelessness.

“The new policy has a focus on rough sleepers and community common areas where people are sleeping rough,” he said.

“This is just one aspect of homelessness, and a good one to start with, but homelessness is more than this.”

The Inner West Youth Homelessness Service works with over 500 young people each year who are experiencing, or at risk of, homelessness.

Nationally, around 40 percent of Australians experiencing homelessness are under the age of 25.

“It’s a real issue and it’s not just the old idea of people sleeping on the streets. What we often encounter are young people who are couch surfing or staying with people in an unstable or short-term solution,” Mr Townsend said.

Youth Homelessness Matters Day (YHMD) aims to improve the lives of young Australians who are experiencing homelessness by engaging with Government and businesses.

They also aim to break the common stereotypes associated with youth homelessness.

“It’s not just the person begging or sleeping on the street. It’s that young girl who has left an abusive place to stay with her friends family, or a guy at school who’s staying on his friend’s couch and doesn’t know where he’ll be sleeping next week,” Mr Townsend said.

“It’s about these ‘hidden’ types of homelessness that we don’t see, and getting those who are in crisis situations on a stable path to be able to focus on what they need to.”

Jack de Groot, CEO of St Vincent de Paul Society NSW, said in a press release many of the services aimed to support young people who are experiencing homelessness are left 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.

The Inner West Council recognises there is an important part for them to play in the fight to reduce homelessness.

“Homelessness is often the consequence of broad scale social and economic policies that result in homelessness triggers such as housing affordability, unemployment and loss of income support,” a council spokesperson said.

“While homelessness is primarily the responsibility of state and commonwealth governments, local government has a significant role to play as custodians of public open space and other community assets which are used by people who are homeless and others.”

Mr Townsend agrees that homelessness is everyone’s responsibility and local decision makers need to work together with State and Federal Government to ensure funding and policy is progressing.

“Homelessness is in part dealt with by the community, this is where issues first arise and people can intervene before things escalate,” said Mr Townsend.

“I hope that we can work with council and the broader community service system to develop this policy with the view to be a leader in homelessness prevention/ policy in the future,” Mr Townsend said.

Mr Townsend said policy-makers and advocates have to be flexible and learn from the experts: the young people experiencing homelessness.

The Inner West Council adopted a new policy focussed on finding long-term solutions for Inner Westies experiencing homelessness on the 28th of March.

The Inner West Youth Homelessness Service provides crisis accommodation, transitional housing, financial support and case management to young people 16-25 in the Inner West.

They also work closely with other community and Government organisations to support young people thrive in the community.