Youth Homelessness Matters
This article has been transcribed from a recent media interview in the lead up the Homelessness Week.
Interviewer: So we have talked with a few people saying that more and more people are needing support. Is that something that you've seen on the ground?
Shekinah: We have definitely seen in increase of young people reaching out for homelessness support. What we get told the most is because of the rise of domestic and family violence. People aren't having a safe home to go back to. And of course, I hate to bring it up. But the cost of living, we have so many families that reach out saying that they can't afford to pay their rent, or they're choosing between paying rent or food, which isn't a choice anyone should have to make.
Interviewer: As a support worker, seeing those cases go up. How does that make you feel?
Shekinah: It's definitely intense. We are currently at capacity. We are working so hard to support those people. And we get to the stage where sometimes you just feel like you're not doing enough, because we've got such a big influx.
Interviewer: What are the kinds of people that are being affected right now?
Shekinah: Everyone, I don't think homelessness has a specific age. I work particularly from 16 to 24.
Interviewer: So how is it specifically targeting younger people?
Shekinah: For younger people, I would say that domestic and family violence is the leading cause. Within parents, family breakdowns, that kind of thing… drug and alcohol use comes up quite a lot. Unfortunately, these young people are 16 and 17, leaving home, have no other options don't have the income. To top it off, getting social housing is just so tough these days.
Interviewer: What would you say to help people understand the real situation right now?
Shekinah: I think there's a lot of shame associated with being homeless. And I think that's just a generational thing. That shouldn’t be, it is so hard. And I don't think until you're put in that position, or until you're working in the field that you really realise the extent and we're really seeing young people's mental health being impacted by this, with many suicide attempts, self-harm attempts. It’s just very much ongoing.
Interviewer: When did you start to notice that these issues started to begin? Or when did you notice that things were starting to get a little bit worse than what they may have been?
Shekinah: I don't have a specific timeline to be like this is when it started. I think lately, the increase has been because a lot more people are reaching out for help. And they're gaining the confidence to be able to go to services and being like, ‘hey, I need help’. No one really likes to ask for help. And being a 17-year-old living on the street, it's a lot already going through their mind just figuring out where they're going to sleep that night, their next meal, that reaching out to a service that you can sometimes think is going to shame you.
Interviewer: What can people do to better understand the situation at hand?
Shekinah: I think talking about it is a major thing. I think you need to have that mental capacity be a lot to really put yourself in their shoes, and be like…okay, this young person struggling, maybe we don't jump to the whole ‘they are a delinquent’ conclusion. That's what we hear, ‘a lot of these young people in Tamworth, they're causing so much drama’... But the reality is like they're on the street. Homelessness is such a generational trauma as well, which is one of the hardest cycles to break and seek help.
Interviewer: What do you think can be done at a governmental level or even a community level to help curb this issue?
Shekinah: I think when programs are having their fundraising for homelessness, get involved. Even if you can't donate showing up really does make a difference. I don't know if we're ever going to eliminate homelessness. It's a big hope to have. But I think we can do a massive don't put a massive dent in it if funding gets put in the right place.
If you are seeking support, please contact TFSS at 1800 073 388 or visit www.tfss.com.au