Celebrating Youth Homelessness Matters Day in Byron Bay last week are (from left) Byron Bay Youth House co-ordinator Angela Ward, volunteer Jessie Skillen and youth worker Angela Price.
Celebrating Youth Homelessness Matters Day in Byron Bay last week are (from left) Byron Bay Youth House co-ordinator Angela Ward, volunteer Jessie Skillen and youth worker Angela Price.

Youth homelessness numbers grow

On any given night in Australia there are 105,000 people who are homeless – and nearly half of them are under the age of 25.

In NSW, more than 11,000 children and young people are homeless on any night.

In the Byron Shire, youth homelessness is also a growing problem and demand for crisis accommodation exceeds supply.

The co-ordinator of the Byron Bay Youth House, Angela Ward, said the number of young people who were homeless was a growing problem, not only in Australia, but here on the North Coast.

“The Byron Bay Youth House is the only crisis accommodation available to 16 to 24-year-olds between Grafton and Tweed Heads,” she said.

“We average about 300 referrals a year, but we only have five beds, so we are always overstretched.”

To raise awareness of the problem, Youth Homelessness Matters Day was held last Wednesday as part of Youth Week 09.

Ms Ward said youth homelessness was generally directly related to family breakdown, drug and alcohol problems and mental health issues.

“A high percentage of young people who are living on the streets are doing so because of a family breakdown,” she said.

“It’s a growing problem and it seems that young homeless people are staying homeless for longer.”

The Byron Bay Youth House is funded by the Department of Community Services (DoCS) and provides crisis accommodation for up to three months for homeless youth.

While at the youth house, young people are supported under case management, assisted with living skills and referral and advocating to services that can assist them with drugs and alcohol, mental and general health, Centrelink enquiries, employment, housing etc.

Ms Ward said help was always needed.

“We never have enough assistance and we always need volunteers,” she said. “If we have filled our five beds, then we have to refer homeless people to other services in other areas, but this doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll get a bed.

“If a young person doesn’t have a home, then how do they go to school, how do they keep a job?”

She said the Federal Government was trying to address the problem with the release last week of the ‘White Paper’ on homelessness which sets out plans for State and Territory governments to use new funding to meet the national target of halving homelessness by 2020.

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