Reducing youth homelessness through assertive outreach
Youth homelessness in Australia continues to rise and the lack of suitable accommodation for young people is an ongoing issue. There are many reasons why young people aged 10 -25 years end up living on the street but the prevalent one is family breakdown. This is followed closely by the experience of abuse, and for young women we know that domestic abuse is a critical factor. In responding to youth homelessness we have developed a mix of highly responsive, personalised and place-based programs that are all underpinned by assertive outreach. Assertive outreach involves targeted engagement with vulnerable young people within their personal environment. The aim of assertive outreach is to provide comprehensive support to young people to reconnect them with their community and avoid a return to homelessness.
Homelessness increases the marginalization of already vulnerable youth and in the absence of security, disconnection from family and friends and the loss of necessities such as food and shelter, it takes time to establish trusting relationships once again. Sadly, homelessness often lends itself to the development of other issues for vulnerable youth, issues such as drug and alcohol abuse, violence and offending behavior and the deterioration of physical and mental health. Our assertive outreach approach is not a ‘one size fits all’ but rather an individualised response to each young person’s own unique set of circumstances and the challenges that they face.
Outreach in the CBD
The greatest number of homeless youth can be found on the streets of our capital cities. Young people tend to gravitate towards high traffic areas making the CBD and surround a hotspot in both Sydney and Melbourne. Of concern is the proximity to late night venues and alcohol and drug affected adults which presents high risks to young people. In addition, young people are often moved on by Police from public spaces areas into poorly lit and secluded areas which present additional risks. Our CBD Outreach Program mobilises a team of outreach workers who work in these hotspots to engage vulnerable young people and provide them with ongoing, intensive support. This can involve connecting them with Centrelink, health services, finding them accommodation or linking them to an accommodation service and attending court dates with them.