The Cost of Youth Homelessness study is a joint project by the Swinburne, Western Australia and Charles Sturt universities. The initial snapshot of the study looked at the psychological and social cost of homeless youths, and found that at least 44,000 Australians aged under 25 were homeless.
Of these youths, the majority claimed that family conflict was the main reason they left home.
An example of this is through the story of Lily Graham, who left home at 16 only to land in refuge.
Marred by violence and alcohol problems in her home, Lily said she was so sick of the late-night parties her parents through while she was trying to study for her final year of high school that she left home and moved in with her boyfriend.
“I cried so much because I was so scared,” she said.
“I didn’t know what was going to happen to me. I felt like I was safer on the streets than in a refuge because at least I wasn’t shut between walls of people I didn’t know.
“My mental health deteriorated when I was not at home.
“I got on drugs and was delusional. I was all sorts of messed up.”
In interviews of 400 young homeless people, about 40% admitted that police had at one stage come to their house because of violence between parents.
The three-year study also found that about 60% of youths had been in out-of-home care such as foster care before they were 18.
The findings have called for a nation-wide call to action to provide a proper safety net for young people who are at risk of homelessness.
Victorian Housing Minister, Martin Foley, says that states were prepared and had all signed up to the national partnership agreement on homelessness, however he said that there’s still no committment on a federal level.
“That partnership currently funds a series of youth foyers which brings together training and housing services for at-risk youth,” Mr Foley said.
“These programs are at risk as of June 30 this year unless the Abbott Government steps up.”
For Lily, help came in the form of youth organisation group The Ladder, who provided her with a self-contained apartment.
She stopped using drugs and got a traineeship at the Korin Gamadji Institute, at Richmond Football Club, where she now works mentoring young Indigenous people who have been identified as leaders in their community.
While Lily is now in suppotted living, she has been able to continue her education and says that studying is what saved her from spiralling further out of control.
“If you’ve got nothing else, you can say you’ve got your education – it’s one thing to pride yourself on,” she said.
“And it gives you something to do instead of thinking about the fact you’ve got nothing and at least they’re expecting me at school – they care.”
Source: The Age