As we marked World Homeless Day last week, we reflect on the high rates of homelessness for young people once they leave care. A $2.4 million investment by the South Australian government is aiming to ease this pressure on young people and reconnect them with their families.
Kids Under Cover, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to preventing youth homelessness, is teaming up with families and organisations to help fund and build 51 backyard studios across South Australia.
The three-year project is for people aged 12 to 25 who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
The Kids Under Cover studio program provides high quality, relocatable accommodation for one or two young people in the backyard of a carer’s main dwelling. Each studio is designed to provide a secure and stable environment as an early intervention method to prevent a young person leaving home before they are ready or capable.
Studios cost up to $65,000 for one bedroom or $77,000 for two bedrooms, with SA Housing Authority funding 70% and the remainder funded through philanthropic donations. Made of compressed wheat and biodegradable, the studios take 10 to 12 days to build and can be taken down in a day and moved onto another family.
To be eligible for the studio program, the household must be engaged with a specialist homelessness service. Case management support is crucial in helping young people to stay safe, sustain housing and achieve positive health and wellbeing outcomes.
In the past year, 11 studios have been built in South Australia.
Troy Crellin, former Head of Programs at Kids Under Cover, said the initiative was about breaking cycles and creating lasting opportunities, as well as giving families much-needed space.
“The studios take the pressure off young people and their families. We have found that when houses are overcrowded, tension can build among family members, forcing young people to leave home.
“By building a studio in the backyard of the family home, we are creating a safe space for a young person while still maintaining their connection with the household.”
To be eligible for a studio, a young person must:
- be aged 12 to 25 years old (including young people who are transitioning from care, in custody and likely to be considered for parole in three to four months, or have been subject to frequent periods of remand)
- be at risk of homelessness due to overcrowding at home
- have a home environment likely to be suitable for the program.
As part of the program young people living in a studio, and their siblings, can apply for scholarships to stay engaged with education and training.
Kids Under Cover is also looking to extend its Village21 program to South Australia. The program – which has proven successful in Victoria – is an alternative model of out-of-home care, combining supported accommodation for young people during their transition from care to independent living.
The villages built on leased or donated land, provide studio accommodation for six people aged 18 to 21. The young people are assisted by two live-in mentors and professional case management support.
I think this is a great idea. Not new, as SAH did provide sleep-outs to accommodate teenagers where there were large families and to address over crowding.
However, the reintroduction of this form of accommodation is a good one. It should also be done for those who have been incarcerated but remain in prison due to a suitable address for release.
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