Homelessness Week 2018: Mandurah’s young homeless seeking help

Local support: Reconnect youth worker Karen Duchar. Photo: Carla Hildebrandt.
Local support: Reconnect youth worker Karen Duchar. Photo: Carla Hildebrandt.

A Mandurah youth homeless service has seen an increase in clients compared to last year which reflects a recent report revealing one in five young people have experienced homelessness in Western Australia.

Mission Australia youth services area manager Suzanne Caren said Reconnect, a program assisting 12 to 18-year-old homeless or at-risk youth, had received more referrals than anticipated in the past year.

This mirrors a report released last week revealed one in five young people in 2017 had experienced homelessness in WA.

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Of the 2319 respondents from the state, 436 reported having experienced homelessness on at least one occasion, the second highest proportion reported for any state or territory.

This included those living in refuges, transitional accommodation and couch surfing.

Mission Australia WA state director Jo Sadler said the report gave a direct insight into the scale of homelessness being experienced in WA and across Australia as a whole.

We know there are some real vulnerabilities in the region, and people want localised services.

Mission Australia youth services area manager Suzanne Caren

“It should provide at the very least a shocking wake-up call to all of us that more needs to be done to help our most vulnerable, especially our young people,” she said.

Mission Australia chief James Toomey said urgent action needed be taken.

“We know that too many young people in Australia don’t know where they’re going to sleep from night to night, which means it’s much harder to think about what they want to do in the future,” he said.

“Who miss schooling because of having to move from one temporary, inadequate dwelling to another...who may be experiencing mental illness and living in family conflict situations without any sense of sanctuary and safety.

“To do nothing risks creating a generation of young people who carry the mental and physical scars of homelessness into their adult lives.”

Ms Caren said the free Mandurah service Reconnect, operating out of the Billy Dower Youth Centre, offered services to get young people back on their feet including counselling and mediation. 

“It helps to stabilise their living situation through early interventions,” she said. 

“It’s a really important program for young people in Mandurah.

“We know there are some real vulnerabilities in the region, and people want localised services.”

Mandurah teenager Andrew, whose name has been changed to protect his identity, was a child of divorced parents which began to impact his schooling, before he was referred to Reconnect. 

A Reconnect spokeswoman said he struggled to make positive friendships and was often bullied by other students. 

“Andrew was provided with practical and emotional support at school each week as well as new strategies to help him communicate with his parents, teachers and students,” she said.

“Support was also provided to both his parents in having open discussions with Andrew about his progress at school and to assist his parents to form better relationships with Andrew’s school.”