Youth homelessness requires youth-specific response

Published: Thu 19 Feb 2015 03:59 PM
Youth homelessness requires youth-specific response
Youth development organisation Youthline commends the release of An insight into the experience of rough sleeping in central Auckland, a report put together by Lifewise, Auckland Council, Auckland City Mission and Think Place.
The report emphasises the complexity of the choice to live on the street, particularly the number of triggers to leave home and sleep rough. The triggers are numerous and varied, highlighting the need for wraparound services that put people first.
“Youthline is well placed to deliver our alongside service – when we encounter a young person who is sleeping rough, we provide transportation, help them navigate the benefit system, link them into accommodation, assign them a youth coach, get them in to counselling when necessary, and keep in touch with them throughout the process using our face to face and text/phone services,” explained Youthline Auckland Central Manager, Kathryn Doughty.
“Sleeping rough is really the narrow end of the wedge for youth homelessness though, it is the last resort, it means they have exhausted the couch surfing options, and staying with friends of friends.”
Page 7 of the report illustrates how complicated decisions to sleep rough can be for young people, and often “the ‘choice’ to do so was more often than not a result of having no other options.”
Solutions for young people need to be wraparound, consider youth-specific accommodation models, inter-agency responses, open communication between providers, and well supported transition plans from care.
Despite a commitment to a working collaboratively to provide a service that sees the whole person, not just homelessness, Youthline struggles to navigate some of the gaps in the system for young people who face difficult and dangerous situations at home.
“Young people sleeping rough are very vulnerable to risk-taking behaviour, and accommodation solutions in Auckland are not youth specific, and can be very unsafe, particularly for young women,” said Doughty, “if a young person is able to find affordable housing independently, they also face barriers if they are under 18 and cannot sign a rental agreement.”
Currently, helping a young person find a place to stay off the street often means reintroducing them to the system that failed them in the first place, which leads many young people not to reach out for help when they need it.
Under the heading Opportunities for change, the report asks “What can my organisation or agency do to better create meaningful change for people sleeping rough?”
Youthline is currently coordinating discussions with a wide selection of key providers in the Auckland Central area to address youth homelessness. An imperative for success in this area is collaboration, and the working group are committed to sharing knowledge and understanding of the issues and considering ideas and options to support one another with practical actions to challenge and reduce barriers for young people.
“We are currently working on mapping the services provided at the different levels of housing need for youth, the funding, policy and service gaps and will be determining actions from here,” said Youthline Auckland General Manager, Glenda Schnell.
The transition to housing from sleeping rough is full of barriers, and the need for consistent, caring support is evident. If you need support, or know someone who needs support, contact Youthline Auckland at 09 361 4168, or call the Helpline at 0800 37 66 33 and our free text service 234.
If you are interested in supporting Youthline, and young people in Auckland, email

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