Wonder Walls

How four walls can prevent youth homelessness

For many young people, the privacy of four walls to themselves is a luxury they don’t have. 

Australia is facing a youth homelessness crisis. Over 40% of our homeless are under 25 years old. 

Our CEO Jo Swift says, “When your family is in turmoil or crisis, there is overcrowding, there’s a lot of conflict in the family home; it’s a cocktail that can lead to a catastrophic event for a young person.” Like becoming homeless. 

However, Australia’s homeless youth are largely invisible. Many homeless young people bounce between friends’ couches or cram into overcrowded accommodation. All while trying to juggle study and the challenges of homelessness.

Paul Stolz, a researcher completing his PhD in overcrowding and youth homelessness at Swinburne University of Technology, describes it as a pathway.

“It’s not from one night to the next where [they become] homeless, there’s a gradual progression.” Paul says.

A studio does more than provide space. It gives young people a sense of control, independence, identity and does wonders for their education and study. 

Unfortunately, overcrowding is the norm for many families, and a major trigger for youth homelessness. 

According to psychologist, Sabina Read, this can be what starts many on the path to homelessness. “Without a space of their own, teenagers may choose to spend more time away from home,” she says. “They may also seek other ways to numb out, including drugs or alcohol, when they feel out of control or unsafe.” Substance abuse is just one of the many symptoms of youth homelessness. 

According to research, the annual cost of health and justice services for homeless youth in Australia is $626 million. This is why prevention is so important. A studio does more than provide space. It gives young people a sense of control, independence, identity and does wonders for their education and study.

There’s a lot we can do right now to tackle youth homelessness, like shifting our focus from cure to prevention. Ken Morgan OAM says it takes one simple act. Reaching out to someone in trouble to show them they’re not alone. “Never ever give up the idea,  that you can’t save a kid,” he says. “Because you can.”


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