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A secure and loving home

Every young person should have a home where they are safe, cared for, respected, and supported to develop their independence and pursue their dreams.

Unfortunately, not every young Victorian gets a good start in life. On the last census night, over 6,000 homeless Victorians were aged 12-24. Youth homelessness is often invisible to the wider community, with vulnerable young people 'couch surfing' and moving through housing that is insecure, overcrowded or dangerous. These young people need coordinated support to settle in a home where they are safe and welcome, and to deal with related issues like education, employment and mental health.

One of the greatest causes of youth homelessness is family violence. Victoria’s Royal Commission into Family Violence (2016) found that young people were often “silent victims”, without enough access to age-appropriate supports. The Commissioners called for therapeutic interventions, counselling and supported accommodation tailored to the young people’s needs.

Young people are also at high risk of homelessness when leaving the out-of-home care system. At present, young Victorians must leave out-of-care at the age of 18. This is not in keeping with community standards, given the high vulnerability of these young people and the fact that most other young people rely on their families for much longer. Around 39% of Victorian care-leavers must depend on housing/homelessness services.

Studies from the UK and US show that young people who choose to stay in care until age 21 halve their risk of becoming homeless or arrested (compared to 18-year-old care leavers) and double their likelihood of staying in education. They also show improved health, improved housing stability, and reduced dependence on alcohol and other drugs. Every dollar spent on extending care beyond age 18 would yield a return of $1.84. High quality peer support models would also help reduce isolation amongst young care leavers.

To reduce young people’s risk of homelessness, we also need investment in adequate, affordable housing. Australia is experiencing a housing affordability crisis; we are the third least affordable housing market in the world. Meanwhile, some tenants are living in properties that lack even the most basic features, such as working stoves and toilets or lockable external doors. Recently we have seen very positive moves to amend the Residential Tenancies Act to address these issues, but ongoing work will be needed.

Our platform focuses on Victoria, but action is also needed at a national level, including a national action plan to end homelessness and guarantee affordable housing for all. In the mean time, Youth Allowance and Newstart payments should be raised by $75 per week, as recommended by ACOSS. The current $39 a day is utterly inadequate to live on.