If you’re an 18-year-old leaving the child welfare system, you have a 60% chance of finding yourself homeless within two years, according to data from the National Institute of Health and Welfare.
- Young people leaving out-of-home care are very likely to become homeless
- Some in the situation are offered apartments with support workers
- Funding announced to help more people in need
Felicity Graham, 18, once spent part of her youth in a homeless shelter and feared the same would happen again when she became an adult.
“I would have ended up in a homeless shelter for sure: it would have been horrible,” she said.
“Especially if the homeless shelter broke down or something, I would have ended up on the street.
Ms Graham said memories of staying at a shelter as a younger teenager meant she didn’t want to go back.
“There were cameras inside and out. The only places the cameras weren’t were the bathrooms and bedrooms,” she said.
“Some of these kids – a lot of them – were dealing with issues like drugs, alcohol and criminal affairs, so the police were there a lot.”
Support for parents in the “mirror” establishment
In South Australia, children who are not placed with foster families must leave the care system at the age of 18.
In other states, supports vary, with only Victoria and soon Western Australia committed to intensive funding to help house and support those leaving the care system until the age of 21.
Luckily for Ms Graham, as she prepared to leave, she was offered a place in a special 17-person apartment building in Adelaide as part of an Anglicare program called Youth 180.
The resort caps rent at a quarter of youth income, with support workers available to residents around the clock.
“They help with different things,” Ms. Graham said.
“For people who may have had mental health issues, which a lot of us do, you can call them up and say, ‘I just need to talk’.
“They help with cooking skills, independence, cleaning – if you need help with cleaning – they help you pretty much a lot.”
“The most powerful thing”
Manager Jenna Masi said the resort tries to mimic the support available in a family home as the children enter their late teens and early twenties.
“We have a transition to work team that comes in on a Friday to help young people find jobs, we have mentors, we have financial advisors who come here,” she said.
“We’re really trying to reflect, I guess, what young people would be provided if they were in their own home with their parents.”
Resident Joshua Buttle, 19, had never learned how to cook himself a meal until he arrived at his apartment.
“The first day I was here he told me how to cook tacos and from that point on I started watching YouTube and learning different methods of cooking and that inspired me to become better, ”he said.
“I believe this is the most powerful thing a child hasn’t had a loving family, a child who has gone through a life of pain, only knowing how to survive, deserves.”
The boiling real estate market is making the problem worse
Jacqui Reed, executive director of the CREATE Foundation, an advocacy group for children and youth with out-of-home care experience, said intensive support was crucial for all discharging care in Australia until they are 21 years old.
Ms Reed said the overheating housing market across much of Australia made the issue even more urgent.
“The demand is so high that young people leaving care are competing with families with children, both with two jobs – there are waiting lists – so for children to set foot on this ladder is particularly difficult. “she said.
“We know that there [is very little] social housing stock and rent subsidies are not enough. We are therefore particularly concerned and we believe that there is a subclass of homelessness.
“Making the most vulnerable children forced to go out into the mainstream market in search of housing or to try to get college degrees when they in fact do not have stable housing, is a parody.”
The government of South Australia recently announced funding for 20 more places at a facility like Angliare over three and a half years.
He said the program would build on his decision to extend payments to foster families until the children in their care are 21.
Ms Masi, from Angliare, said although the announcement was welcome, there were many more young people who still needed help.
“The number of people waiting to participate in this program is incredible, and it’s sad, but it’s motivating.”