In early October, a young 16 year old male came to the attention of an Open Family Australia outreach worker in Melbourne’s Southern suburbs. Jack* had been living in a tent on the beach for months as he had been unable to find any stable accommodation. When our worker approached Jack, he hadn’t eaten in more than 24hrs and was displaying concerning behaviour that indicated that he may have mental health issues.
Prior to being on the streets, Jack had been living at home but a combination of family breakdown and his own mental health issues resulted in him being kicked out of home. He was no longer attending school and, once on the streets, Jack started to use amphetamines as a coping mechanism which exacerbated his health issues.
It is not unusual for a young person to be reticent when first coming into contact with an outreach worker – many have an inherent distrust of adults and have become disheartened about ever finding assistance. Jack had become increasingly isolated from family and friends and was no longer attempting to access services as he was ashamed to be asking for help.
After working with Jack for a month and meeting with him several times a week, our worker was able to start building a relationship with him and began working towards addressing his needs. Initially, our worker was able to arrange Medicare and Health-Care cards for Jack and organised a referral to a local psychiatrist who began to work with Jack on his mental health issues.
Within weeks, our worker was able to find Jack temporary accommodation in a local refuge however, he only stayed for two weeks and then left. At the time he didn’t say why, but eventually told his worker that he was being harassed by older residents at the refuge and had some of his few personal belongings stolen. This is one of the risks young people face when they are temporarily placed in all-ages housing and not surprisingly, Jack felt he had been safer sleeping on the beach and left.
Our worker then began investigating medium to long term accommodation options for Jack as it was clear that he would not return to a refuge and would instead continue to sleep wherever he could on the streets. Through our networks in the area, our worker approached a local landlord who accepts rental applications from disadvantaged young people, based on Open Family Australia’s referral, and provides them with transitional housing for a period of 13 weeks. A local agency offering rent assistance, together with Centrelink, covers three quarters of the rental cost for Jack’s housing.
In conjunction with our Transitional Housing Support workers in the area, Jack’s outreach worker is now focusing on securing long term accommodation for Jack as well as continuing to support him in other areas such as health and education.
In a short period of time we have already seen some significant improvements in Jack’s life. It is our hope that once Jack’s immediate needs are met, and he has secured long term housing, we will be able to reconnect him with school so he can finish Year 12 and start thinking about his future.
* Names have been changed to protect privacy