October 6, 2021

Gippsland Homelessness Network Hosts the “Inner Gippsland Youth Accommodation Forum”

The Gippsland Homelessness Network, along with Quantum and the Foyer Foundation held the Inner Gippsland Youth Accommodation Forum on Tuesday 28th September. Inner Gippsland consists of four Local Government Areas, Baw Baw, Latrobe City, South Gippsland and Bass Coast Shires.

The forum focused on ways young people experiencing disadvantage and are at risk of homelessness can have a safe and stable environment where they have access to opportunities to grow emotionally, socially and to have a sense of security.

Chris McNamara, Gippsland Homelessness Network Co-ordinator stated at the forum “Young people deserve a homelessness service system that allows sufficient time for them to flourish, that is aspirational; that includes education, family reconciliation and support, counselling, guidance, living skills development and financial support with a pathway to employment.”

There are many barriers that the Inner Gippsland community face. The four main specialist homelessness services working with youth are Quantum Support Services, VACCA, The Salvation Army and Community Housing Limited. These agencies have collectively worked with over 1700 young people over a three-year period that have experienced homelessness. Within the Inner Gippsland Region there is one 6 bed crisis refuge, 16 transitional housing properties, no dedicated long term social housing and a near impossible private rental market.

Mitchell Burney, Manager of Youth Services at Quantum Support Services says “Youth Homelessness in Inner Gippsland is the worst it has ever been. Over the past three financial years, demand for youth homelessness supports have steadily risen and our access to safe and affordable housing has not increased with this demand. What we have in Inner Gippsland is simply not enough”. Mr Burney stated that “We are seeing increasing levels of young people sleeping on the street and in their car as well as increasing levels of young people living in unsafe and violent situations just to have a roof over their head. We need to invest in new and innovative options that will meet the needs of our community, such as Youth Foyers.”

The forum also included speakers from the Foyer Foundation, Brotherhood of St Laurence, Shepparton Education First Youth Foyer as well as Lived Experience Advocates. Katie Hooper, CEO of the Foyer Foundation spoke about what it would mean to extend youth accommodation options and initiatives such as Youth Foyers. Through these types of initiatives, it is believed that the number of young people cycling through the homelessness service system would be reduced and that the number of young people completing education training and participating in employment will be increased.

Chris McNamara stated “Now is an opportune time to address this situation with the Victorian Government’s announcement in November 2020 of the Big Housing Build. the A Minimum Guaranteed Investment of $120 million is available for Inner Gippsland for social and affordable housing. This could go a long way to creating accommodation options similar to Youth Foyers that will meet the unique demand and needs of young people across all of Inner Gippsland”.

Natalie McDonald, Chief Executive of Quantum Support Services told the Forum that work is currently being undertaken in Inner Gippsland to develop a business case for submission to the Victorian Government that reflects what young people need in Inner Gippsland.