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Youth Homelessness Matters Day

April 17, 2024 9:52 am in by

April 17 is Youth Homelessness Matters Day, a nation-wide initiative to raise awareness of the growing crisis. On any given night in the Shoalhaven more than 170 young people are homeless.

Dru was one of them before he got help from CareSouth’s Shoalhaven Youth Support Service (SYSS), the only dedicated youth homelessness service in the region.

Couch surfing is the most common form of homelessness among 15-24 year olds. So, in the lead up to Youth Homelessness Matters Day, CareSouth launched its A Couch is not a Home campaign. CareSouth staff and supporters, including HMAS Albatross personnel, will sleep on a couch for a night to highlight the issues faced by young people who cannot live safely at home.

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Dru will also crash on a couch, but it will be in his own home. He now has stable housing in a private rental, and a job he loves. Two years ago, it was a very different story. Dru was in hospital for four months, with significant physical injuries. When he was discharged, he had no safe housing to return to. A hospital social worker referred him to SYSS.

Dru credits the support service for changing his life. SYSS provided short-term accommodation, in a self-contained unit for two months, and helped him build the skills he needed to find a job and a rental property.

“I met some really special people at SYSS,” said Dru. “They created a safe, supportive space for me to recover, and the healing effect that had on me both physically and mentally, was incredible.”

Caseworkers taught Dru how to shop, budget, cook, clean, apply for rentals and jobs.

“SYSS didn’t just provide housing, they made me feel at home,” says Dru. “The whole program has been created so that you know you have a voice. That’s so empowering. The mentoring, motivation and connection they gave me helped me set myself up with future accommodation and work.”

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Last year more than 70 homeless young people accessed the SYSS crisis accommodation service.

“Many young people who come to SYSS for help have been couch surfing for a period of time,” says CareSouth Shoalhaven Regional Manager Denise Hanley. “But a couch is not a stable home, and young people soon run out of couches to stay on.

“Early intervention from programs like SYSS help break the cycle of youth homelessness. Without this service the problem will grow as the cost of living continues to rise and young people are priced out of the housing and rental markets.”

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