Nurturing Independence at Village 21

Building trust and teaching core life lessons are key to the successful support model at Village 21

Leon Jordan is the Team Leader of Village 21 in Preston. The project, a joint venture between Kids Under Cover and Anglicare Victoria and funded by the Victorian Government, is an alternative model of Out of Home Care combining an accommodation and support environment for young people during the transition from state care to independent living. The Village provides studio accommodation for six young people aged between 18 and 21 who are guided by two live-in mentors and a key practitioner who offers professional case management support on a regular basis. 

“The case management relationship at the Village is one where it’s not about necessarily ‘doing’ for the individuals, but ‘guiding. Facilitating and supporting the young people to take the lead around their aspirations and what their goals are.

“The Key Practitioner, who works closely with the young people, plays a really key role in helping the young person to think about what their future aspirations are across all different domains of their life. They then help put that into some sort of actionable goals to assists the young person in identifying what actions they might need to take to get there.”

The art of building trust

The model offers support through a professional practitioner who provides specific one-on-one guidance as well as a volunteer, live-in mentor who plays a more opportunistic supportive role, often just by leading by example. There’s a focus at Village 21 to keep these relationships consistent rather than having too many different faces coming and going.  

“Relationships are really important when it comes to young people,” Leon explains. “Particularly when we’re working with young people that have had an Out-of-Home-Care experience. Trust, relationships, consistency… all of these things are really important in the context of the supports that are around them. And the young people’s willingness to engage in those supports.”

A two-pronged approach

One of the key components for success within the Village 21 Program lies in the double-barrelled support structure that features hands on guidance alongside a stable and affordable accommodation option. The program’s design comes in response to years of research and recommendations suggesting these two pillars of support should work in conjunction to significantly increase the likelihood of successful transition.

Leon’s first-hand account at Village 21 sheds further light on the benefits of the collaborative nature of supported accommodation and vocational guidance.

“The safe and stable accommodation is key,” he explains. “That’s really key to the young person being able to engage in a meaningful way in education or employment. Not only is it safe and secure, but the idea is that it’s settled. There aren’t crises going on all the time. There’s not drama going on all the time. It’s that environment where young people can come in and genuinely focus on things like education and employment without the other peripheral stuff going on.”

Building life skills

But it’s not just enrolment in school or courses or a traineeship where Leon sees a key part of the education taking place. It’s the day-to-day life lessons – cleanliness, hygiene, making a meal, pressing a shirt, resolving a dispute, showing respect – that often get overlooked but are crucial in helping prepare a young person for an independent life.

“One of the things we’re learning is that there’s somewhere a young person can go to learn the skills for a certain job. There’s somewhere they can go to get assistance with budgeting. There’s somewhere they can go to get medical support. But there’s nowhere young people can go to learn those really core life skills. And the Village really is a place where we’re doing a lot of that work. We might be coming in a bit late with those learnings, but they’re really so important.

“It’s these things that are driving the cycle of homelessness for the young people that we work with. And they don’t get talked about often enough. There are no real services where that is really a key focus. And that’s one of the areas where I think we’re making a real difference at Village 21.”