Courier Mail: Youth services buckling under increase in young people with no secure place to live

Nov 06, 2023

Hundreds of youths as young as 12 who have no place to call home are knocking on the door of youth services at alarming rates. (Courier Mail: Jackie Sinnerton)

Schoolchildren as young as 12 are among more than 650 youths knocking on the door of Brisbane Youth Service each month desperately needing help.

The housing crisis means that there is often no accommodation available, and young people are now faced with a night of rough sleeping.

When they arrive at the service, 47 per cent of young clients are already homeless and 77 per cent are living in unsafe, temporary, overcrowded or unaffordable housing.

Brisbane Youth Service CEO Pam Barker said youth homelessness in Brisbane had hit a crisis point, and urged the community to respond to the escalating need for support for vulnerable young people.

“The housing options for a young person with limited funds and no rental history is bleak, there’s just nothing available. Sometimes the only option for our youth workers is to give a young person a sleeping bag and safety plan for a night on the streets,” she said.

One of young people who sought help is 16-year-old Emma who was still in Year 10 when she left her family home to escape violence. It took nearly 18 months for her to find a safe place to stay.

“There were nights when I slept on a chair in South Bank or passed the time in places like a 24-hour McDonald’s just to feel safer,” Emma said.

“I was uncomfortable and scared, staying awake until dawn hoping to find a better place to sleep the next night.”

Fleeing home with just one bag and her phone, Emma lacked essentials like a TransLink go card or a photo ID to access vital services.

She received an emergency pack of food and toiletries to meet her immediate needs. She also found help with accommodation but it was unstable, at one stage, moving to a different hotel each night.

“The hotels were scary. I could hear men talking loudly and laughing, I didn’t feel safe,” she said.

Emma’s mental health deteriorated during this time but eventually, she connected with Brisbane Youth Service who helped her secure better accommodation and a safe, stable place to live.

She has since returned to study to finish her high school certificate.

“Homelessness puts young people at risk of further violence and trauma,” Ms Barker said.

“Every young person should have the right to food, clothing and safe shelter but the availability of services is now insufficient, leaving children as young as 12 alone without a safe place to sleep at night through no fault of their own,” she said.

More than 37 per cent of homeless individuals in Queensland are under the age of 25.

The frequency of young people seeking help is increasing as is the complexity of their needs, compounded by a 22 per cent leap in mental health diagnoses in the past five years.

At the Brisbane Youth Service Hub in Fortitude Valley, up to 40 young people turn up every day looking for food and urgent assistance.

How to help

Donate to the Not For Rent appeal.

  • $20 can provide a prepaid go card or top-up for transport to connect with critical services
  • $47 can provide food and toiletries or a sleeping bag for a young person sleeping rough
  • $72 can provide an hour of street outreach to young people sleeping rough
  • $126 can purchase a night of emergency accommodation