With 44,000 young Australians sleeping rough, and the homeless ‘count’ up 14% in the past five years, e-connect talks to Salvation Army workers Tatiana Croft (below, left) and Trish Kelly about the reasons why and the ways to resolve youth homelessness.
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e-connect: Back in 2014, the Council to Homeless Persons (CHP) noted there were 360 homeless people counted in Frankston on Census night… as we have seen earlier this year, the numbers are up all over, with 116,000 Australians being counted as homeless...
Tatiana, at the youth homelessness summit late last year you mentioned that homeless young people are stigmatised and marginalised, and that they need stability and safety, so that they can begin to rebuild their lives. The nearest crisis accommodation for homeless kids in Frankston is Dandenong, some 19 km away – that is still the case?
Tatiana Croft: Yes, and our public transport hub means it is not on the same train line, so they have to get a bus directly, but buses can be challenging, in terms of bus stops and timetables. We service the Mornington Peninsula Shire as well as Frankston, so the distance can be 68 km (from Rye) or 46 km (from Hastings). The communities are very different, too; Dandenong has a very different demographic to the Frankston and Mornington Peninsula region.
My service helps people from the age of 16 up; Trish’s service – T21 (Transition To Independence Centre) – caters to youth, from 16 to the age of 25.
e-connect: Trish, at the 2017 youth homelessness summit, you spoke of the limited resources you had at T21, with three single bedroom units, and two family units. Sometimes people could stay for two years, and statutory (court-mandated youth) can stay for 12 months?
Trish: Yes; it varies, but once a young person comes in and settles, they generally stay for the allocated length. There are some young people who come in and realise it is not what they thought it would be, it’s not for me… the program is transition to independence, and a lot of young people think it leads to housing and independence, but our program is very structured and the need to be willing to engage on their goals. The assessment process is lengthy, because they are long-term placements. It has to be the right fit for them, and they have to be the right fit for the placement, because it is community living at T21.
Because they are such long-term placements, our limited resources take into account exit plans and age. It would be awesome if we had a local, crisis, stop-over facility, where we could stabilise and assess young people. We can’t take young people in crisis, because they are just not ready for this process.
Tatiana: And if you were to put young people in crisis into a T21 placement, you’d be setting them up to fail. It’s got to be the right time for them, to be a helpful process.
Trish: They really need to be ready and prepared to engage, because it is a voluntary process, changing your life. Even the statutory clients; they are treated like voluntary clients. The young people who are voluntary wouldn’t even realise there is a statutory client living with them. They are given the same freedoms and responsibilities.
Tatiana: Looking at our two programs, one for adults and one for youth, reminds me of something that came out of the summit last year: there is no one right response. All people are different. All young people are different. You can’t put them into boxes and say, ‘This is what happens when you are at risk of homelessness,’ or ‘This is what happens when you are homeless…’
You have to have the right tailored package of support for each individual. You cannot forget that we are talking about people; our business is humanity.
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Tatiana Croft is the coordinator of the Transitional Support Program, Homelessness and Support Services, SalvoCare Eastern.
Trish Kelly is the coordinator of Youth Services, Peninsula Transition To Independence Centre (T21), SalvoCare Eastern.