Fight against youth homelessness

The Northern and Western Homelessness Network is calling on the federal government to take action on youth homelessness.

The network of specialist homelessness and family violence organisations in Melbourne’s north and west includes Kat Perdriau from Hope Street Youth and Family Services.

Ms Perdriau said there were about nine refuges for young people in Melbourne, with about 80 beds between them – and that was not enough to cater for demand.

“We might have a young person who goes to an access point from Werribee and gets placed in Dandenong because this is the only place where a bed is available that night,” she said.

Ms Perdriau said most young people, even if they received Youth Allowance and had a part-time job, could not afford private rental homes.

She said more social housing was needed and that the federal government should make it mandatory for new housing developments to include a percentage of social housing.

Unison Community Housing chief executive Jack Panton said homelessness in Wyndham had increased 76 per cent in five years (from 414 homeless people in the 2011 census to 730 homeless people in the 2016 census).

“That is faster than anywhere else in metropolitan Melbourne except the CBD.”

He said almost 40 per cent of people experiencing homelessness were under 25.

WEstjustice policy and community development director Shorna Moore completed a study into youth “couch surfing” last year.

“The majority of these young couch surfers were secondary school students who were all experiencing family violence,” she said.

“To escape the violence, they stayed at friends’ houses, sometimes moving between several houses per week.”

Housing, Disability and Ageing Minister Martin Foley, said the state government had provided the H3 Wyndham Alliance (a partnership of health, housing and homelessness agencies in the west) with $3.5 million for the construction of eight self-contained units for young people at risk of, or experiencing, homelessness.

A federal Department of Social Services (DSS) spokesperson said: “Delivery of homelessness services is primarily a state and territory responsibility.”

A statement from the DSS said the federal government would offer $4.02 million in funding over five years, from July this year, to two Reconnect services in Wyndham that provide at-risk youth with support to find accommodation, along with funding for other local homelessness services.