As youth homelessness continues to rise in the region, Hope Street is responding: creating the foundations for a brighter future with its anticipated state-of-the-art youth refuge centre.
Following four years of planning and collaborative community effort, construction has finally commenced on Hope Street’s new First Response Youth Service (youth refuge) in Melton. To mark this important milestone, a turning of the sod ceremony was recently held at the site to celebrate the initiation of a what will be a bright new future for some of the area’s most vulnerable young people.
Starting with a Welcome to Country and smoking ceremony conducted by Indigenous Elder Mr Ron Jones, the day’s proceedings included a special tree planting ceremony and words from guest speakers including the Hon. Natalie Hutchins (Member for Sydenham; Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Prevention of Family Violence; Minister for Women; Minister for Industrial Relations), City of Melton Mayor, Cr. Bob Turner, and Hope Street Youth and Family Services CEO, Donna Bennett.
According to Donna, the day was one that merited a proper public celebration. "This day has been four years in the making, and it’s a real joy to be here celebrating this moment,” she said. “Today is the culmination of research, fundraising and community awareness events, political lobbying and a lot of negotiating.”
A truly collaborative effort, the project has largely been funded by the State Government, with additional funding and contributions coming from the City of Melton, philanthropic partners The Marian and E.H. Flack Trust and The Edward Wilson Trust, local businesses, and generous members of the local community.
Due for completion in mid-2019, the facility is a practical response to the growing demand for youth homelessness services in the Melton region. Hope Street says that the new service is based on a model that aims to prevent long-term homelessness and improve outcomes for young people,
Once completed, the purpose-built centre will provide crucial support to young people in need, while creating pathways to a positive future in the form of specialist support and community links. Designed to accommodate up to 100 young people each year, it will include eight individual bedrooms in a communal living building, along with a separate 2-bedroom unit for young families. Residents will also have access to a range of on-site services, including a communal living area and kitchen and outdoor seating areas. The facility will be staffed 24 hours per day, offering short term case management support, living skills programs and links to various other services. Case Managers will support the young person to seek employment, education or training, while working to address the young person’s immediate housing needs to provide suitable long term accommodation.
The official rate of homelessness in Australia has increased 4.6 per cent over the last five years, with more than 116,000 people experiencing homelessness across our country, including 24,000 people here in Victoria.
Of these numbers, one quarter are young people aged between 12 and 24 years – that’s 6000 young people who don’t have a safe place to sleep right here in Victoria, although the Council to Homeless Persons actually believes that these youth homeless stats are underestimated.
So what causes so many young people to experience homelessness? The two most common reasons for young people to be homeless are overcrowding in homes and domestic and family violence – factors that are usually out of the control of the young people themselves and something that they have to flee from for the sake of their own well-being and safety.
One of the longest established specialist youth homelessness services in Victoria, Hope Street provides help for young people aged between 16-25 years who are experiencing homelessness, including young families.
For over 35 years, Hope Street has offered support to some of Melbourne’s most vulnerable young people, providing crucial services such as emergency accommodation, counselling, education, training and development.
Recognising the importance of this work in our local community, Woodgrove has proudly supported Hope Street as a key community partner since 2015. During this time, the centre has worked with the Melton community to help raise funds for Hope Street’s vital and much-needed work.