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Thursday, 09 August 2018 09:48

Time to focus on homelessness for young people

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0818HomelessnessJSS 350Many young people who have contact with the youth justice system have experienced insecure or unsafe housing, or homelessness. Jesuit Social Services’ Media Relations Manager Kathryn Kernohan writes that this Homelessness Week, it’s time to focus on housing for vulnerable young people to ultimately prevent crime.

More than 116,000 Australians are homeless on any given night. Homelessness Week (August 6 – 13) is a valuable opportunity to shine a light homelessness, and advocate for solutions at local, state and Federal levels.

While we know that older women remain the fastest growing group of homeless people, an issue that warrants urgent action, we also know of the clear links between young people who experience homelessness and the criminal justice system.

Jesuit Social Services has more than 40 years of experience working with young people who have contact with the justice system and we know that for many, insecure or unsafe housing, or a lack of housing altogether are common factors behind young people getting into trouble.

Take the story of Charles, a young man who has a history of involvement with the child protection system.

“I had a pretty bad home life and my parents asked me to move out because I was a bad influence on my little brother,” he says.

Charles ended up spending time in detention and after exiting, he was given an opportunity to move into supported accommodation and to develop independent living skills.

Charles is now hoping to complete school and get a job, and says housing is one of the main factors that has helped him get back on track.

“I have my own kitchen (now) and to cook food is pretty important. I cook two or three nights a week because I have staff there showing me how to do it.”

Without safe and secure housing, vulnerable young people will find it difficult to address the issues behind their offending.

The #WorthASecondChance campaign, which we recently launched, aims to build a groundswell of public support for a more effective youth justice system that holds young people to account while also giving them the support they need to get their lives back on track.

One of the key recommendations of the campaign is that detention of young people should be a last resort, and that we should instead focus on housing and alternatives to remand.

We also operate the Link Youth Justice Housing Program, which supports young people exiting the justice system by facilitating access to housing, stable living arrangements and after-hours support.

A lack of secure housing can be a major factor in a young person getting into trouble with the law, and as Charles’ story shows, supporting young people into housing can help them get their lives back on track and stop them from re-offending.

This Homelessness Week, we encourage you to join the #WorthASecondChance campaign and support our call for a focus on housing for young people who have contact with the youth justice system.

Join the campaign here: www.worthasecondchance.com.au

This article was published on the website of Jesuit Social Services.

PHOTO: Shutterstock