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Research reveals answer to youth homelessness

With 5000 young people homeless in Melbourne tonight, groundbreaking research to be launched by Housing Minister Wendy Lovell tomorrow has endorsed the trail blazing model used by Melbourne Citymission to tackle and prevent youth homelessness.

Melbourne Citymission initiated Victoria's first "Foyer" model in 2004. Named Step Ahead, the program offers "wrap around" quality care, intensive support, accommodation and services to highly vulnerable homeless young people between the age of 16 and 25.

Melbourne Citymission's Director of Homelessness and Justice Sherri Bruinhout said: "We've been working for decades to end youth homelessness, and here we are with a program that does exactly that. Ending youth homelessness means a new beginning for these young people – to be like everyone else. For them – a job, a house and a healthy relationship are no longer virtual impossibilities."

Research conducted by Victoria University with formerly homeless young people nearly three years after leaving Melbourne Citymission's Step Ahead program, showed that none had returned to homelessness. More than 80 per cent had completed Year 12 and 37 per cent had completed post-school qualifications, including university degrees.

Melbourne Citymission's Foyer model: Step Ahead program has four distinctive elements:

  • It offers longer term supported accommodation for up to three years – to allow the young person to feel safe and secure, often for the first time in their lives. This support even continues for a further six months after the young person has left the program.
  • Young people develop living skills for a successful transition into adulthood such as learning how to cook, how to budget, to look after their health, have social activities and live co-operatively with other young people. It also offers referrals and links with other services offered by Melbourne Citymission such as family mediation and counselling
  • Access into Melbourne Citymission's other programs and supports in education and training and its many pre employment courses to enable young people to build their skills, self confidence and maturity

The ratio of one member of staff to seven young people is deliberate, so they can receive the intensive support they desperately need to be able to turn their lives around, out of the debilitating cycle of homelessness.

Lead researcher Associate Professor Marty Grace said the study highlighted the complexity of being without a home. "Homelessness is about much more than simply shelter," she said. "Young people without a roof over their heads need multi-faceted services that the foyer approach provides – doors that open to education, training, and to assistance with budgeting and legal advice."

The study concluded that "even though coming to terms with past damaging experiences and forging new lives for themselves was far from straightforward ....the support of the Step Ahead program and its workers was essential to assisting the participants to overcome the many obstacles they faced."

Launch details

Date: Wednesday 3 August 2011

Time: 10.30am – 11.30am

Location: Melbourne Citymission, 19 King Street, Melbourne

 

Photo & interview opportunities:

Sherri Bruinhout, Director Homelessness and Justice Services, Melbourne Citymission

Associate Professor Marty Grace, Victoria University, 0404 835 614.

Young people from the Step Ahead program

 

Contact Information:

Joni Tooth, Media Liaison, Melbourne Citymission. Mobile 0427 078 370

Jim Buckell, External Communications Manager, Victoria University. (03) 9919 4243; 0400 465 459; jim.buckell@vu.edu.au

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