Bondi refuge launches new app for homeless youth

Shaya Laughlin | Wentworth Courier | April 5, 2017

A Bondi Junction youth refuge has launched a new phone app today amid reports of children as young as 12 finding themselves homeless in the eastern suburbs.

Caretakers Cottage CEO Laurie Matthews said many vulnerable children were left without a roof because of broken and struggling families.

The centre will launch a new mobile phone app #HomelessKidsMatter on Homeless Youth Day to help teenagers find contact information for all homeless shelters in NSW.

Mr Matthews said the app was the first of its kind and connected young people to important service to help them, including non-profit organisations and government agencies in the homelessness sector.

“We are finding more, younger people,” Mr Matthews said. “More of the 12 and 13 year olds who really don’t have a whole lot of options to return home to family.”

Mr Matthews said it was a tough time for young families who were not getting as much support from extended relatives as previous generations did.

“I think families don’t have near the level of support from their own families and extended families,” he said.

“Young parents are pretty much on their own and it’s meant to be intuitive.

“We’re meant to automatically know how to be a parent and we don’t.”

Mr Matthews said homeless youth often ended up couch surfing which could lead to dangerous situations.

“Superficially that sounds cool,” he said.

“But it is really dangerous (and) kids get exploited in those situations.

“It doesn’t end up being a cheap or easy bed, it ends up being on with a really big cost.

“Kids don’t have the sophistication and capacity to be able to keep themselves safe.”

Mr Matthews said their 10 beds at Caretakers Cottage on Bondi Rd were usually full, with more than 220 kids needing help every year.

“We have kids from Vaucluse to La Perouse at the refuge here,” he said.

“It’s not necessarily about the roof over their heads, it’s more about the quality of their family relationships.

“The young people that we work with are kids whose parents split up and the kids are lost between the parents.

“Or the junkie parents or kids who have significant behavioural issues ... and their parents hit a wall.

“Our role is to try and help those parents to manage their kids successfully.

“We want these kids back at home with family rather than in refuges.”

Originally published on

Laurie Matthews Speaks to Maroubra Rotary Club

Laurie Matthews with Patrick Lim, President of the Maroubra Rotary Club.

Laurie Matthews with Patrick Lim, President of the Maroubra Rotary Club.

On 20 March, 2017, Caretakers Cottage CEO, Laurie Matthews, spoke to the Maroubra Rotary Club about the work of Caretakers Cottage and the plight of homeless children and young people in Sydney.

On the invitation of Dr. Michael Pusey, Professor of Sociology at Macquarie University, Laurie addressed the members of the Rotary Club of the mission of Caretakers Cottage, the organisation's history, its work with disadvantaged children and young people.

The central topic discussed is the increasing challenges to parenting in the 21st Century. Laurie, who had seen a fair share of students at various private schools in the Eastern Suburbs stay at the crisis refuge in the past four decades, stressed that the organisation recognised that many parents are struggling to raise their childtren to become functioning and independent adults. Laurie stated that parents often have increased feelings of hopelessness once their children are labelled as "ADHD" (or some other diagnostic label) and begin acting up as teens.

Laurie Matthews Awarded Community Service Award

On 26 January, 2017, Caretakers Cottage CEO, Laurie Matthews, was awarded the Australia Day Community Service Award by Randwick City Council.

The award was presented by Randwick Mayor Cr. Noel D'Souza and recognises Laurie's outstanding work, assisting disadvantaged youth and their families in the Eastern Suburbs.

Your Move: Housing Choices for Young People

Caretakers Cottage has re-published its comprehensive guide for housing options for young people in NSW.

The booklet has been written to help guide young people through the housing choices available.

Topics explored in this booklet include:

  • various forms of supported housing
  • non-supported accommodation options
  • public and social housing pathways
  • finance tips
  • support services and information

Read or download the booklet here.

Caretakers Cottage Annual Christmas Party

The Annual Christmas party at the Caretakers Cottage Youth Refuge took place on 14 December, 2016. The party was a great success, thanks to our fantastic staff, friends and supporters. A very warm thank you to Johnson Partners for helping out in sponsoring the event, to the staff & volunteers for decorating and setting up, and a very special thank you to our friends from the community who helped donate for the heaps of gifts given to our current and former residents. The kids loved the party and had a great time!

Options Wins Youth Service of the Year Award!

On December 1st, 2016, Caretakers Cottage semi-independent accommodation program, Options Youth Housing, was awarded the New South Wales Youth Service of the Year Award.

The award was presented by Youth Action, the peak body organisation for youth in New South Wales, as a part of their annual Youth Work Award ceremony. 

Kate Witherdin, manager at Options spoke at the event, as did Trei, one of the young people in the Options program.

Trei spoke about how before living at Options, he and his siblings had been separated years ago, but Options managed to reunite him with a sister, in a shared flat.

The team at Options Youth Housing consists of Kate Witherdin (Manager), and caseworkers Michael Brickwedde, Alexis Rabin and Dafna Dar.

The manager and caseworkers at Options Youth Housing provide case management and support for young people living in semi-independent accommodation across the Eastern Suburbs. The program is funded by the NSW Department of Family and Community Services (FACS), and is supported by community housing provider, Bridge Housing.

A final note of credit is due to Laurie Matthews, CEO of Caretakers Cottage, for taking on the project of Options a decade ago and leading its expansion and development over the years. Options recently expanded from accommodating 16 residents to now nearly 60 young people, including some young families.

Kate Witherdin with Mychelle Curran, Executive Director, Community Homes and Place (FACS)

Kate Witherdin with Mychelle Curran, Executive Director, Community Homes and Place (FACS)

This award comes as pleasant sequel to the results from last year's 2015 Youth Work Awards, where Laurie Matthews was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award for his 40+ years of service, assisting the disadvantaged youth in our community.

Jessie’s Journey to Independence


Jessie*, a 20-year-old young man, was referred to Options Youth Housing early 2015. Jessie had been ‘couch surfing’ in an attempt to escape his family home where long-term family violence and drug abuse were present. Jessie was experiencing significant depression and anxiety as a result of years of trauma and abuse. Jessie was offered a bedsit unit at the Options program and the staff supported him to stabilise his mental health by linking him in with a psychologist and psychiatrist.

Within seven months, Jessie situation improved to the point where he landed a casual position in a retail store and managed to increase his hours over time, as well as enrolling in a performing arts course. Over time, the staff at Options witnessed a once nervous, quiet young man gain incredible confidence in himself and find hope in his future.

Over time, the staff at Options witnessed a once nervous, quiet young man gain incredible confidence in himself and find hope in his future.

Some twelve months later, Jessie enrolled in full time university studies and acquired a new part-time job. Heartbreakingly, during this period, his eight-year-old sister Amy was involved in a car accident at the hands of their older brother and suffered a permanent brain injury. Shortly after, Jessie’s mother was diagnosed with cancer and needed to undergo treatment leaving her unable to provide full-time care for her daughter. Jessie’s step-father had a long history of drug addiction was not able to care for the young girl either. As there was no one to provide care for his sister due his mother’s illness and his step-fathers drug addiction, Jessie dropped his studies and picked up more hours at work in order to take on full guardianship and care of his sister.

During this stressful period, Jessie accumulated rent arrears and debts that were unmanageable and his depression returned. The staff at Options supported Jessie in nominating him for a bigger, two-bedroom property through a Community Housing Provider (CHP) partnership, supporting him with his rent arrears through advocacy to the CHP, assisting him with his budgeting skills, and supporting him to maintain his mental health and wellbeing.

Today, Jessie and his sister Amy have moved from an Options property into a Community Housing property. Options continue to provide the young family with case management support despite having exited from our accommodation. This support will continue for as long as it is needed, helping Jessie though his journey towards independence.


Massive Murray Paddle Fundraiser

Dear Friends,

As you know, I worked at Caretakers Youth Refuge in my younger days.

The graphic footage of the kids who have been abused in the Northern Territory system reminds us all of our responsibilities to help others avoid these kinds of poor outcomes at an early age however we can.

I have friends who have asked how they can help make a direct difference for young people in crisis. Some friends are beginning volunteer work, some have donated clothing and goods and for others I am suggesting a direct donation to Caretakers Cottage programs which will go a long way to keeping their vital programs running for the kids.

For my part I’m putting my hands up and paddling my kayak 404km in the Massive Murray Paddle to raise some money for Caretakers Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal programs.

I’m asking you to join me.


Peter Matthews

You can make a donation to Caretakers Cottage by clicking on this link:

You can view the history and programs at Caretakers Cottage on this link:

You can look at the Massive Murray Paddle on this link: