Melbourne is a great city that we should consider ourselves lucky to live in. However, the harsh reality is that Australia isn’t the lucky country for every young person. Youth homelessness is a serious issue that affects approximately 26,238 young people Australia-wide. Sadly, this topic seems to be largely forgotten in many ways. It is important to be aware and generate discussion around the issue.
Youth homelessness is caused by many factors including family breakdown, violence, unemployment, mental health issues, alcohol and/or drug issues and poverty. These causes are present in the 2008 documentary film The Oasis, which focused upon the lives of homeless youths staying in a housing centre in Sydney. The documentary explored individual stories of each youth, who due to a difficult past, were eventually forced to leave home. The loss of social and emotional connections with family and friends, along with housing, food, water and basic services, further exacerbated their descent into homelessness.
This issue is one that stems globally, with youth homelessness increasing in developing countries. Even though the causes of homelessness in developing nations are mostly similar to developed nations, developing nations generally have graver influencing factors such as significant periods of poverty, low standards of living and rural to urban migration. Moreover, the attitude towards this issue varies in different nations depending on political, social, cultural, religious and economic values. In some developing countries, gathering data relating to homelessness is non-existent due to the significance and broad prevalence of the problem.
As the complexities of youth homelessness differ in various countries, so do the approaches taken. However there are two main standpoints to consider. Firstly, a proactive approach to prevent the causes of youth homelessness. This includes increasing affordable education, family services as well as health and rehab facilities and employment opportunities to better prevent homelessness from occurring. In particular, education that focuses on academic aspects, health, family violence, alcohol and drugs, is key in substantially preventing individuals from falling into serious issues.
Secondly, a reactive approach can be taken to assist those already in the cycle of homelessness. This can include access to affordable housing or government housing that not only provides individuals accommodation and safety, but also an actual address to reference when looking for employment. Additionally, a co-ordination of social services that provide important resources and necessities should be increased. Non-governmental organisations or non-profit organisations are particularly important in supporting areas that may not receive enough government assistance.
As young people, we have the power to instigate change. The following are a number of admirable organisations that rely on support to deliver invaluable services to the community. There are numerous non-governmental and non-for-profit organisations in Melbourne looking for volunteers or even just a simple donation.
Salvation Army Melbourne 614*: An organisation who provides support by supplying meals, clothing and counselling, as well as pathways for training, volunteering and employment. Many volunteer opportunities are available including the Marketplace where you can assist in customer service duties in a supermarket, Hamodava Café where you can order and serve food and beverages for disadvantaged communities, and the AMP 614 Youth Bus which involves preparing food and socialising with other young people.
Crêpes for Change: A non-for-profit crêpe van created and run by young people. The crêpe van is present at numerous markets, festivals and events, where money made from each crêpe goes towards initiatives tackling youth homelessness. Volunteers are required for van procedures such as making crepes and running the till. As a van volunteer I can confirm it is also great fun! There is also the new mobile coffee cart that can cater for any sort of event. Barista and crêpe training is provided!
Lighthouse Foundation: An organisation providing homes and services to homeless youths suffering from long-term neglect and abuse. Each Lighthouse home provides the safety, counselling and guidance for young people to assist in creating a future pathway away from chronic homelessness and disadvantage. Opportunities include the Community Committees, which involve providing support mentoring, practical help and fundraising for a Lighthouse home. Volunteers are also required for assisting with events and administration.
Sacred Heart Mission: An organisation providing services and support to disadvantaged communities, including homeless youths. Volunteers are required for Op Shops where you can develop customer service skills and help raise funds for services, such as the Our Meals Program, which involves supporting and serving meals at their main dining hall. Also, volunteers to help with reception, administration and event fundraising are needed by the organisation.
These are just a few of the volunteering opportunities available in Melbourne. Spending a few hours of your week helping out organisations is a great initiative if you’re interested in discussing and tackling the issue of youth homelessness. So get out there and give it a go. Get involved!
*Editors note: We acknowledge the Salvation Army is not LGBT friendly and we condemn their position on LGBT matters. We hope to see this change in future.