Western Sydney homes for homeless youth

Rebecca Mullins with Platform Youth Services CEO Stephanie Oatley at Penrith. Picture: Geoff Jones.

Rebecca Mullins with Platform Youth Services CEO Stephanie Oatley at Penrith. Picture: Geoff Jones.

THIRTY-FOUR out of forty-seven new homes recently purchased to house homeless youth in NSW are in western or south west Sydney, with 20 properties in Parramatta alone.

This will provide 54 beds for homeless young people in western across 22 two-bedroom units and 12 one-bedroom units.

Acting CEO of My Foundations Youth Housing Rebecca Mullins said the properties, which were purchased over the last 18 months with $7.5 million from the NSW government and $4.75 million from the Commonwealth, represent a ‘‘big influx’’ of new homes for a sector that traditionally sees very little new housing stock.

‘‘Forty-seven properties is fabulous, but I want to see a whole lot more than that,’’ Ms Mullins said.

Currently, 37 young people are being housed across Penrith, Parramatta, Blacktown and Liverpool, with the capacity to house up to 80.

The plan, Ms Mullins said, is to leverage those 47 properties to sustainably grow the portfolio to include even more homes for the state’s most vulnerable young.

Under a new tenancy system and rent model, My Foundations Youth Housing will offer youth at risk of homelessness extended transitional leases of up to five years, with ongoing support from project partners while they get back on their feet. Previously, transitional tenants were housed for 6-18 months, or up to two years. In some cases, people as young as 17 were exhausting tenancies before they turned 18.

‘‘I think it’s a recognition of the natural development of young people,’’ Ms Mullins said. ‘‘I can’t picture how I would have been independent at that age, and I had a perfectly normal upbringing.’’

Tenant support will be provided by project partners including Western Housing for Youth at Merrylands, Platform Youth Services at Penrith, Marist Youth care at Blacktown and the Liverpool Youth Accommodation Assistance Company.

NSW family and community services minister Gabrielle Upton said young people at risk of homelessness were being offered a ‘‘brighter future’’ through longer tenure to ensure they had time to finish studies and to help them move to independent living over the long term.

My Foundations Youth Housing tenant case study:

■ Tony, who has experienced homelessness, had a very difficult relationship with his mother and was in care until the age of 18. He has four brothers who he keeps in regular contact with, with two brothers still in care.

■ Susie had been couch surfing for a long time and was beginning to think she and Tony would never have a safe place of their own.

■ Susie and Tony are now planning for their future, with Susie at TAFE studying aged care and Tony building his literacy and numeracy skills with his goal to complete a health and fitness course in the near future.

■ Of her new home, Susie said: ‘‘this place has given me the opportunity to grow up’’.

■ Tony is working with Family and Community Services to increase visits from his younger brothers now he has have stable, affordable and safe housing. Tony wants to be a good role model and make sure his younger brothers don’t have to experience homelessness like he did.

People who are homeless or at risk of homelessness can get help from the state-wide Link2home service by calling 1800 152 152.

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