This Saturday 24 April is Youth Homelessness Day and Hope Street Youth and Family Services continue to raise awareness and create public discussion about youth homelessness.
Hope Street are thrilled to welcome their newest ambassador Isabel Huntington. Isabel is best known as an Australian Rules Footballer playing for the Western Bulldogs in the AFLW.
CEO Donna Bennett noted, "I have no doubt young women will be inspired by Izzy as they will see a young women who is going for what she wants in life and achieving this,"
Hope Street sat down with Isabel for a short Q&A, see below:
1. What made you want to partner up with Hope Street and be an ambassador?
The potential to help in raising awareness and advocating for change in what is a devastating issue in today's society really drew me in. In particular, Hope Street's key values which revolve around equality and fairness for all really resonated with me. Learning about the work Hope Street has done across the year and their vision was very inspiring in wanting to partner and help make a difference.
2. Why is the youth homelessness issue so important to you?
The extent of the issue of youth homelessness does not currently receive the time and attention it warrants. Hearing about how many young people are experiencing such issues, many of whom are incredibly vulnerable, makes me want to do everything I can to help change this trend. The number of young people who slip through the cracks and do not receive the support they deserve is devastating and must be changed.
3. What role do you play in Hope Street? What does the ambassador role involve?
Being an ambassador involves a number of duties - most of which revolve around advocating for the important work Hope Street does as an organisation and raising awareness as to why this work is so vital. For me, constantly educating myself further on the issues is also crucial.
4. What has been the most fulfilling part of your ambassador role as far?
Hearing about the genuine difference Hope Street and their services have made to so many young people in vulnerable and unstable situations has been incredibly fulfilling. Working with the staff at Hope Street who are so passionate about helping young people achieve their potential and be treated fairly, regardless of their background, has been very important.
5. What have you learnt about youth homelessness since partnering up with Hope Street that you didn't know before?
The sheer extent of the youth homelessness issue in Melbourne and beyond has been my biggest learning. The number of young people who are not reported in homelessness statistics and do not qualify for traditional support due to their unique situations is much larger than is reported, hence the importance of Hope Street's work and their model as an organisation.
6. What do you want people to know about youth homelessness?
Young people living on Centrelink benefits are the most vulnerable young people experiencing homelessness as they are not obtaining access to social housing. There is an urgent need to ensure that safe secure and affordable housing is available for young people living on low incomes. Official Government data shows that there has been a significant increase in the number of young people aged 19-24 years experiencing homelessness in Victoria 2006-2016.
The high incidence of recorded homelessness is compounded by the fact that much youth homelessness is ‘hidden’ with young people experiencing homelessness across Australia staying with relatives and friends. Changes in the housing market, particularly a ‘tight rental housing market’ is one of the most common reasons why young people experience homelessness.
Young people are significantly underrepresented in current social housing tenancies (0.4%). A recent survey of young people across Victoria finds that, for young people, homelessness contributes significantly to the need for support services. Being homeless dramatically changes their lives by significantly impacting their mental health. The absence of affordable rental properties and the failure to provide social housing and adequate income support directly prevents young people from accessing alternative accommodation. In addition to mental ill-health, young peoples’ lives are also deeply affected by homelessness with school disengagement, unemployment, family/relationship violence and unsafe sexual encounters.
7. What do you hope to achieve in your ambassador role at Hope Street?
To broaden the perspective of other people on the issue of youth homelessness and to help in whatever way possible to push for Hope Street to be able to continue to deliver the vital and life changing services they have been delivering for many years.
8. What is youth homelessness day? Why is it important to you to shed a light to Youth Homelessness Day?
Youth Homelessness Matters Day aims to raise awareness and public discussion about youth homelessness so that we can develop sustainable and innovative solutions for not only supporting the needs of homeless youth, but supporting the dreams of homeless youth.
The 2016 Australian Bureau of Statistics Census estimates that 39% of Victorians counted as experiencing homelessness on Census night were under 25 years old. The fact that 9,742 young people are without a home can come as a shock as the issue is largely invisible. Statistics show high rates of youth homelessness, however, these figures are only the tip of the iceberg as many young people and young families are couch surfing or staying in temporary or unsuitable accommodation and so don't qualify as being homeless.
While there are many young people sleeping rough on the street, many more are staying at a friend’s place for a few nights, or in emergency accommodation, rooming houses, caravan parks or improvised dwellings. Increasing numbers of young people find themselves without a safe place to call home due to family breakdown, lack of affordable housing, and family violence.
Young people may move in and out of homelessness. Some experience homelessness for short periods of time, others for many years.
Young people who are homeless often experience poor mental health, poverty, trauma, substance use, social isolation and are victims of violence. Young people who are homeless are more likely to have involvement with the juvenile justice system. These issues make it more difficult to escape homelessness.
We know that if young people experience homelessness, they are more likely to be homeless long term. Many adults who have experienced long-term homelessness (sometimes referred to as chronic homelessness) were homeless at some stage when they were young. In simple terms, if you experience homelessness when you’re young, you are much more likely to experience long-term homelessness as an adult. Therefore, it’s important that young people get the assistance they need as soon as they need it.
Ending youth homelessness is a big challenge made up of two components, being the individual and broader social levels. Getting involved with Youth Homelessness Matters Day to raise public awareness about youth homelessness and the factors that cause it can influence change as the public become informed about youth homelessness and talk about it with our friends and families. We can help raise community awareness and make homelessness everybody’s business
Photo Credit - Hilary Faye Sloane Photographer