Father Chris Riley on Youth Homelessness Matters Day

It was Youth Homelessness Matters Day on 15 April. It’s where we come together and raise awareness for the serious issue of being homeless at a young age. Currently, 44,000 young people are homeless around Australia[1].

The theme this year for Youth Homelessness Matters Day was early intervention and I believe that a major part of early intervention is education. Recently, I read a study titled ‘The Cost of Youth Homelessness in Australia’[2] by the UWA Centre for Social Impact, Swinburne University of Technology and Charles Sturt University, published 17 February 2015.

The study found that young homeless people over the age of 18 had experienced homelessness, or sleeping rough, at a younger age. This has a devastating effect on their future, as they often leave school and drop out of their communities. Not receiving a proper education leads to unemployment and future homelessness. This is why I consider education a form of early intervention.

The mainstream schooling system isn’t always the best option for these young people. This is where a flexible learning becomes important.

At Youth Off The Streets’ independent schools we focus on flexible learning and a holistic approach to education to help disadvantaged and homeless young people. Due to their current circumstances, our schools provide them with breakfast, lunch and snacks throughout the day. This ensures that they have had enough food to fuel their learning for the day. For some of the young people, this is the only food they’ll get that day.

As well as providing essential nutrition, our schools offer an environment that caters to the needs of young people. Making sure that homeless young people get the education they need equips them with the tools to live independently. The level of education attained by a young person is a key factor when determining the future employability of the young person. The study notes that over 50% of the young homeless people faced difficulty in getting work because they lacked the necessary skills or education.

In 2014, our schools helped 38 young people graduate from year 10, nine young people completed year 11 and six young people completed year 12 and gained their HSC. Youth Off The Streets’ schools are a great example of equipping disengaged and disadvantaged young people with the tools they need to secure future employment and break free from the cycle of poverty.

On Youth Homelessness Matters Day, think of the 44,000 young people that are homeless around Australia and support the different events, initiatives and organisations that are working to get young people off the streets.

[1] ABS, 2011

[2] The Cost of Youth Homelessness, Swinburne University of Technology, http://researchbank.swinburne.edu.au/vital/access/manager/Repository/swin:41707

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