Amy was 11 when she first experienced homelessness. Her mother had substance use issues, which resulted in Amy experiencing neglect and living in an unsafe environment. Amy started couch surfing by staying at her friends’ houses before the Department of Health and Human Services organised for Amy to move in with her father at age 14. However, Amy felt unsafe, and living with her father promptly ended.
According to Amy she felt that the early intervention strategies of Child Protection did not provide safe and supportive accommodation. Due to the instability in Amy’s life, most especially surrounding housing, Amy dropped out of school in year 9. Amy began to use substances and entered situations that continued to be unsafe due to lack of appropriate guidance, support, and stable and safe housing.
Amy entered a relationship at age 15, becoming pregnant soon thereafter. Her partner was a perpetrator of family violence. Amy said she found the strength to leave the relationship to protect herself and her unborn son. One month before her 16th birthday Amy welcomed her son into the world. During this period, Amy had been living temporarily with her friend and after five months she had to leave this accommodation. Amy and her young son were placed in a hotel by an Anglicare worker.
In November 2018, at the age of 16 and whilst living in a hotel with her six-month old child, Amy engaged with the Hope Street’s First Response in Melton Mobile Outreach Team. The team assisted with a referral to Western Region Accommodation Program (WRAP) where Amy stayed for a few nights before she was referred to the Hope Street in Melton Program (a youth ‘Foyer like’ model). The following week she was accepted into one of our two bedroom family units in the Hope Street in Melton program.
Towards the end of Amy’s 24 months, she was graduating from year 12. The Hope Street in Melton program was able to provide flexibility and allow Amy and her son to extend their stay so she could focus on her graduation and plans for 2021.
Whilst Amy was assessed as a priority for public housing, there is extremely limited housing stock in the Western suburbs. Therefore, upon entry into the program, the team discussed the option of private rental as an appropriate exit plan for Amy and her son. It is important to provide an honest overview of housing exit options early, so that young people can begin to develop realistic expectations about their housing options; most especially given Office of Housing will not be an outcome for most young people in the area.
The Hope Street in Melton case managers and living skills staff, work alongside young adults to draw on their strengths to ensure they develop the skills to live interdependently within their local community. Amy’s skills increased significantly over the 24 months however the anxiety of how to afford private rental in the current Melbourne housing market created a lot of fear for Amy and she spent many hours in the program fearing for her future and how she could maintain stable housing for her family.
During Amy’s time in the Hope Street in Melton program, the team supported Amy to build her connection to the local community. Amy was linked into parenting support, education, mental health counselling and a general practitioner. Regular care plan meetings were conducted which Amy was invited to join and as she began to build confidence, Amy took the lead in the meetings. Amy was provided living skills over the weekends and in case management to increase financial literacy, navigate relationships, increase her Learners hours, and develop an understanding of her housing options.
It was a challenge for Amy to secure employment that accommodated her schooling and parenting responsibilities. To create additional income, Amy decided to start her own business and provide make up to the local high school students for the debutants and graduations. The team supported Amy to successfully apply for a City of Melton Council grant to assist her to start her business. Unfortunately, before Amy was able to start her business, Australia was struck by COVID-19.
Yet during the pandemic, Amy showed her resilience by quickly adapting to remote learning during year 12. Amy chose to have her child at home and not access care due to safety concerns regarding Covid-19. With the increase in government support payments during the pandemic and the freeze on rents in transition housing, Amy was able to save her additional Centrelink payment.
Amy completed year 12 in 2020 and with her savings felt ready to explore the possibility of Private Rental. In addition to her savings, the case management team were able to apply for Private Rental Brokerage funding and an Office of Housing Bond Loan to support the transition out of the program into independent living. Amy secured a three-bedroom town house in Melton, which was close to Public Transport and her son’s care provider.
The townhouse required cleaning before moving in so Hope Street provided funding to have the carpets cleaned and provided support to clean the property. Amy received furniture from ‘Donation Direct’ and used her savings to purchase white goods. Amy moved into the property in February and with our support has turned the property into a beautiful home. Amy has since adopted a kitten.
Amy is proud of her achievements and the home she has been able to create for her son. In 2021 Amy plans to start beauty school and begin her business. To support her education, the team applied for a grant to fund an eyelash extension course. The case management team are also continuing to provide outreach support for up to 12 months. This will aid Amy’s transition into private rental and support a successful tenancy. As Amy’s confidence and independence grows, the support provided will reduce.
Amy has demonstrated incredible character over the course of her journey prior to and while at Hope Street, displaying her many strengths including resilience. Amy acknowledges how much she has grown from the 16-year-old that Hope Street met in 2018. Amy thanks the program for the opportunity of safe stable supported housing, she has stated without the opportunity she had at Hope Street, she may have lost care of her son, which would have completely devastated her. Due to Amy’s willingness to participate in the various youth focused opportunities provided by the Hope Street in Melton program, she has been able to thrive and achieve her goals. Amy feels that her and her son have a bright and successful future ahead of them.
Amy’s story allows us to understand the importance of specialised models of support for young people who have experienced homelessness. Greater and quicker access to safe, low cost social housing could have prevented the anxiety and distress experienced by Amy. Anxiety can be extremely debilitating for people preventing people from being able to make decisions and take action to move forward in their life. Providing stable, long term housing allows young people to feel less overwhelmed or anxious and instead allows young people to focus on more positive aspects of their life such as education, employment and their children, as Amy has done.
Before arriving at Hope Street, Shaun was living with his mother and sisters. However, due to Shaun’s ongoing perpetration of violence and physical assaults against his mother, the police applied for an Intervention Order to remove Shaun from the family home. He temporarily moved to his sisters’ place, however due to overcrowding and Shaun’s’ behaviour, this placement broke down and Shaun spent the following period squatting in the local area, moving through public spaces with nowhere to go.
Shaun entered Hope Street’s First Response Youth Refuge with limited independent living skills. With the intensive daily support of our residential staff Shaun soon improved his independent living skills. Shaun completed all chores creating a daily structure for himself. Furthermore, Shaun continuously worked on his behavioral issues and is now able to effectively communicate with workers and recognise the behaviours which have a negative impact on his life.
Housing outcomes for Shaun have been limited as he was diagnosed with an intellectual disability and ADHD, impacting his ability to manage behaviour, understand information appropriate to his age level and live independently. Furthermore, given Shaun’s aggressive behaviour was mostly triggered by his family, reunification was not a workable option. The team at the refuge explored all housing options alongside his care team, determining that the most suitable form of accommodation was Supported Independent Living (SIL)
However, the Supported Independent Living property that was set aside for Shaun was taking longer than expected to become available. Knowing that Shaun had a long-term housing outcome and understanding that the refuge was for short term stays, case managers worked with his care team to find more suitable interim accommodation. Share house accommodation was identified as an interim option.
Utilising the flexible brokerage, that is key to the First Response Youth Refuge model, case managers worked alongside Shaun to ensure he would have a smooth transition into the share house whilst waiting for the Supported Independent Living property. This was done by encouraging Shaun to look at the property prior to moving in, making sure Shaun was equipped with all new bedroom furniture and linen, a companion card, $200 voucher for food and payment of one month’s rent. Furthermore, First Response Youth Refuge case managers encouraged Shaun to use his wellness and recovery plan which he could access and use at any time when he felt overwhelmed or needed to talk to one of his support workers.
Since moving into the share house, Shaun continues to receive intensive outreach support from the First Response Youth Refuge case managers. Furthermore, he has been engaged with his NDIS support work daily alongside workers from the SIL property to aid the transition into the accommodation. Shaun’s goals are to live in stable long-term accommodation and re-build positive relationships with family and friends, which he is achieving. Shaun is thankful for the support that he has been provided and enjoyed his time at the refuge.
Whilst Shaun was able to access the necessary services required to exit homelessness, his options were extremely limited. Shaun’s situation required intensive case management and a flexible approach to achieve a longer term housing outcome. The flexible brokerage provided ensured that Shaun was able to exit into an interim housing option as a planned stepped approach to entering his longer term housing. Shaun was an active participant in the case management process including determining how the brokerage funding was utilised, which Shaun commented as empowering.
Shaun’s situation highlights the value of future accommodation and support models for young people that include:
In support of young people in crisis, future youth housing needs to provide more immediate access to housing and accommodation options. Shaun’s situation demonstrates that a variety of long term safe and affordable housing models are essential for young people and must be responsive to each young person’s different housing and support needs.