Helping homeless young people in Wollongong

The Minister for Housing and Homelessness Brendan O’Connor today visited the Southern Youth and Family Service in Wollongong with Member for Cunningham Sharon Bird and Member for Throsby Stephen Jones to see first-hand how it is helping young people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

Mr O’Connor said the Service, established in 1977, provides vulnerable and disadvantaged young people with access to a range of support services and assistance, such as secure, safe and affordable accommodation, employment, education and training, and adequate health care.

“All Australians deserve a safe, secure place to call home,” Mr O’Connor said.

“The Gillard Government has made homelessness a national priority and has committed to halving the overall rate of homelessness by 2020.

“Without the efforts of Southern Youth and Family Services and other similar organisations, the Gillard Government’s commitments could not be met.

“I was very pleased to present the Southern Youth and Family Service with the award for Excellence in Supporting Pathways to Employment or Education at the inaugural Homelessness Awards earlier this year.

“And today I was delighted to see first-hand the wonderful work they are doing to support Wollongong’s vulnerable and disadvantaged young people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.”

“I am also pleased the Southern Youth and Family Service received $2.6 million from the Regional Development Australia Fund to create a new Community Hub and a youth accommodation facility, which the Regional Australia Minister Simon Crean announced last week with Sharon and Stephen.

“The Community Hub will house social support and health services for young people and families. The accommodation facility will provide supported housing for homeless young people, and will incorporate education, employment and social services.”

Ms Bird said the Gillard Government is committed to tackling the complex challenges of homelessness.

“As a government we have made addressing homelessness a national priority because it is not acceptable in this wealthy country that we have 100,000 Australians homeless,” Ms Bird said.

“I believe it is unacceptable that there are teenagers sleeping rough here in Wollongong.

“That is why we are pleased to fund a range of Southern Youth and Family services that support young people and their families, including over $500,000 for the Resourcing Adolescent and Family Team Reconnect Program for 2011/12.

“Since its introduction in 1999, the Reconnect Program has had fantastic results in helping your people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness to reconnect with their families, work, education, training and our local community.”

“Reducing homelessness is everyone’s responsibility. It requires a long-term and systemic effort across agencies, all levels of government, sectors and the community.”

Mr Jones said he was proud of the work the Gillard Government has been doing to combat homelessness, both in the Illawarra and across the country.

“Without a stable home, young people struggle to stay in training or education, or find and keep jobs. That’s not good for them, for their families, or for the Illawarra,” Mr Jones said. “Under the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness, we have invested $1.1 billion over five years to help homeless people across Australia.

“A key commitment under the Agreement is the Foyer Model for Young People in Illawarra, which we are visiting today.

“The Service, which has received $2.89 million over four years from the Gillard Government and the NSW Government, is providing much-needed support to help young people improve their chances of getting an education, accessing training and getting a job.” Mr O’Connor said the Gillard Government has invested an unprecedented $5 billion in additional funding in homelessness since 2008.

“While it is the role of governments to set reforms and measures in policy, it is organisations such the Southern Youth and Family Service that put policies in to practice and who do the important work – day in and day out – to help young people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.”