Homeless in the cold - Teens hit the skids

THE issue of teenagers sleeping rough in the Clarence Valley becomes more visible as the nights get colder.

CRANES Community Support Programs CEO Jane Allen said while the local organisation's accommodation program was often at capacity, there was always a noticeable spike in winter.

She believes the weather plays an important role in young people understanding the extent of their situation.

"We definitely have a higher demand through the colder months, we suspect that's when some people begin to realise they are homeless," she said.

It is anticipated about 125 young people with a "primary issue of homelessness" will walk through the doors of CRANES Clarence Valley-based accommodation service each year over the next three years.

That figure doesn't include young people who are couch surfing or bunked in with extended family or friends.

"The hardest thing about homelessness is identifying who fits the criteria, because it takes a great deal of courage to come forward as homeless," Ms Allen said.

"Some people don't actually know they're homeless - their view of it is someone who rolls out a swag and camps on the riverbank."

While homelessness isn't always visible, service providers say it is still a highly active issue in low socio-economic areas such as the Clarence Valley.

Across Australia it is an issue that appears to be getting worse.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the total number of people who are homeless in Australia has increased by 17.3% since 2006.

At the 2011 Census 1385 people were homeless in the North Coast region.

To raise awareness and support of the issue, Community Service students at North Coast TAFE are planning an activities day on Wednesday to highlight the issue and provide services for struggling youth.

The Youth Homeless Matters Day is to be held as part of National Youth Week celebrations, and will include a free lunch, entertainment, activities and prizes, including a Random Refund Event, clothes swap stall and more.

Student Kelly Ballard said the campaign aimed to end discrimination against young people experiencing homelessness.

"We need to change this alarming situation for young Australians," she said. Youth Homeless Matters Day will be held at Grafton TAFE, 1 Clarence St Grafton on Wednesday, April 9 from 12pm to 2.30pm.

$115M for homelessness

THE future of two important services which keep young people on the North Coast off the streets has been secured.

Switch, which runs Young People Leaving Care Support Services, and a service that assists young people leaving the juvenile justice system on the mid-North Coast were under threat of losing funding until this week.

Federal Member for Page Kevin Hogan said the funding agreement for each service was due to end on June 30.

"When I discovered this I went in to bat for these local services to ensure funds were found," he said.

The government announced on Monday it would provide $115 million for 180 critical homelessness services whose funding agreement was due to end on June 30.

Minister for Social Services Kevin Andrews said the funding would reinstate the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness funding for another year, providing much-needed certainty for homelessness services.

"The dedicated people running these services provide critical support to help vulnerable Australians get their lives back together, as well as find affordable and sustainable housing," he said.

Topics:  clarence valley, cranes community support program, homelessness



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