Youths Without Roofs

Saja Hassan & Josephine Rebeiro | The Eastsider | February 3, 2015

A homeless person is someone who is without a conventional home. This person is usually cut off from the support of family and friends, lacks independent resources and has little prospect of self-support. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, young people aged between 12-18 years are the largest group experiencing homelessness.

Homelessness is not just a housing problem. The causes are varied and include family breakdown, long-term unemployment, substance abuse and mental health issues.

Young people who are homeless face a number of difficulties, including a violation of their right to adequate housing, education, liberty, freedom and privacy. Young people experiencing homelessness may lack social security, connection with family, friends and community. Their health and safety may also be at risk.

Caretakers Cottage provides a range of specialist child, teenage and young peoples’ services across the East and South East region of Sydney. Caretakers Cottage services also offer a unique program of accommodation, support and after-care services to reduce homelessness and provide opportunities for stable and independent transition into adulthood.

We spoke to the CEO of Caretakers Cottage Laurie Matthews to gain some insight into what’s provided at the cottage. Laurie said, “our main service is to provide ongoing family counseling to mend the relationship between the youth and their family… because they live with the decision for the rest of their lives if they don’t give it another try.”

When asked how many people enter the Cottage on a monthly basis, Laurie said “we take in only ten people at a time so we can provide the right amount of time and services for each person. We hope to get them out of here within three months”. Laurie added that Caretakers Cottage provided some accommodation for young people in the Sutherland Shire and Bondi at a cost of 60 dollars per week, which is 20 percent of their income support payment.

We discussed the major causes of youth homelessness with Laurie. Laurie added, “Mental health is a major cause. We also deal with people who have been abused, dealing with family issues and people who are taking drugs.” Laurie went on to explain that good communication between family members is important when helping a young person get back on their feet.

Youth homelessness is a complex issue with varied causes. Organisations such as Caretakers Cottage help to provide long-term solutions for affected young people. It is essential that our youth get all the support they can to access stable and safe accommodation. Homelessness is something we should make history in a country as wealthy as ours.

© The Eastsider 2015