Annual Report 2020-21
Annual Report 2019-20
Annual Report 2018-19
Annual Report 2017-18
Annual Report 2016-17
Annual Report 2015-16
Annual Report 2014-15
Plans & Strategies
Reconciliation Action Plan 2022-2024
This Innovate RAP, developed with input from First Nations young people, establishes a framework to promote institutional integrity, equity, and equality through meaningful, tangible goals. It is a commitment to grow our knowledge of the cultures and histories of First Australians and to offer appropriate support based on respect and understanding.
Reconciliation Action Plan 2019-2021
Officially endorsed by Reconciliation Australia, BYS’s Reconciliation Action Plan 2019-2021 launched at the Valley Hub on 4 September 2019 with BYS Patron, Australian football legend and Gunggari and Gubbi Gubbi man, Steve Renouf. The RAP supports the organisation in meeting the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people in culturally appropriate ways, ensuring they are a part of the Reconciliation journey.
Research and Publications
It's time we turned off the taps. Australia's children and young people should not be left homeless..
Opinion piece – Pam Barker, CEO.
The Federal Government must address Australia’s child and youth homelessness problem. The argument for a National Child and Youth Housing and Homelessness Plan is not new. Many governments have attempted to address homelessness only to leave children and young people as one or two recommendations in an adult-focused strategy. While there have been many child and youth wellbeing strategies nationally (National Mental Health Commission’s National Children’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy’ for the most recent), they have not adequately addressed the issue of homelessness. The Federal Government has been largely silent on this issue.
A National Child and Youth Housing and Homelessness Plan Provides an Opportunity to Better Address the Complex Support Needs of Young People
Dr Rebecca Duell Quality Research and Innovation Senior Manager, Catherine Mann Research and Evaluation Coordinator.
Young people with complex support needs face a range of challenges and realities that a standalone National Child and Youth Housing and Homelessness Plan has the opportunity to address. Importantly, a national plan must not interpret homelessness as a ‘standalone issue’ or one that ends when young people are securely housed. Central to any national plan should be recognition of – and solutions to address – the broad range of co-occurring issues that drive and commonly arise as a result of homelessness.
Young Women Navigating Homelessness and Pregnancy: Pathways Into and Barriers Out of Homelessness
Catherine Mann Research and Evaluation Coordinator, Rhianon Vichta-Ohlsen Research and Evaluation Manager, Lou Baker Young Women and Young Families Manager
In 2020-21, Brisbane Youth Service (BYS) received 2,629 new enquiries for support from young people impacted by homelessness or related support needs. Specialist Homelessness Services (SHS) data indicates that approximately 1.1 per cent of young people who seek support nationally are young parents and 17.2 per cent of new mothers are aged 24 years or younger, with younger mothers more likely to identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander. At BYS, more than a quarter of the young people we support each year are young parents (26 per cent) and approximately 70 per cent of young parents coming to BYS identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander.
Attending School While Homeless: Emerging Evidence from Young People in Brisbane
Catherine Mann, Research and Evaluation Coordinator, Brisbane Youth Service
In 2020-21, 1,277 young people in Brisbane presented to Specialist Homelessness Services (SHS) with 389 aged 15 to 17 years and 888 aged 18 to 24 years. Homelessness intersects with a range of other challenges in young people’s lives including exposure to violence, financial disadvantage, mental illness, substance use, overall health/wellbeing, and disengagement from education and employment. Young people experiencing homelessness find it exceedingly difficult to remain engaged in education and are at higher risk of leaving school early compared to their peers.
When a Whole Lot of Young People Get a Whole Lot More Stressed: Mental Health, Young People, Homelessness and COVID-19
Rhianon Vichta-Ohlsen and Catherine Mann
Mental health concerns are consistently one of the most prevalent challenges facing young people who are at risk of homelessness, or homeless, when coming to Brisbane Youth Service for assistance. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic both the numbers of young people presenting for support and the percentage of those young people who are experiencing mental health issues have increased disproportionately. The concerning increase in mental health issues in the general Australian population has been well documented, with evidence that this impact has been stronger for young people and that mental health is the third most common aspect of young peoples’ lives to be adversely affected by COVID-19
Solution-Focused Brief Therapy in Crisis: Adapting Practice in Pandemic Times
Rhianon Vichta-Ohlsen, Ricco Schadwill, Di Mahoney
With massive increases in the number of new requests for support, overstretched resources and reducing referral options, the Brisbane Youth Service Intake Team have needed courage to tackle the seemingly never-ending impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. In surviving the diverse challenges of the last two years, the team has had to work hard to remain grounded amidst the frustrations that can come with trying to respond to the often seemingly unsolvable crises impacting young people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
Queer homelessness: the distinct experiences of sexuality and trans-gender diverse youth
Katie Hail-Jares, Rhianon Vichta-Ohlsen, Theo M. Butler & Jacqueline Byrne
Queer young people, or young people who are sexuality diverse and/or trans and gender diverse, face a higher lifetime likelihood of homelessness than their cis-heterosexual peers. However, queer young people are often treated as a homogenous group within research, a methodological decisions that obscures differences on the basis of gender identity.
Psychological Distress Among Young People Who Are Couchsurfing
Katie Hail-Jares, Rhianon Vichta-Ohlsen, Theo Butler & Anna Dunne
In this brief report, we explore the relationship between psychological distress and couchsurfing, with attention to the latter’s transitory and cyclic nature. The Kessler scale of psychological distress (K10) was administered as part of a semi-structured interview to 63 young people who had couchsurfed within the past 18 months. A robust regression was used to explore the associations between demographic and couchsurfing factors and cumulative K10 score. Gender, cultural background, age when leaving home, and number of hosts stayed with during the last couchsurfing episode emerged as statistically significant factors. Our study finds that young people who are couchsurfing have much higher levels of psychological distress than their peers in the general population. We suggest, based on these results and others, that homelessness services should reassess how they prioritize and serve young people who are couchsurfing.
Creating Characters as an Approach to Facilitating Learning from Lived Experience with Young People
Dr Jenny Penton, Brisbane Youth Service
While several studies about lived experiences of homelessness have been documented, these often acknowledge the challenges and barriers involved in this engagement, noting the complexities of people’s lives, the high incidence of mental health issues, substance misuse and other health problems, and the perception that this demographic is hard-to-reach and unable to meaningfully contribute.
Learning from the Lived Experiences of Young Couch Surfers
Theo Butler, Community Advisory Group Member with lived experience of couch-surfing, Rhianon Vichta-Ohlsen, Brisbane Youth Service Research and Evaluation Manager and Dr Katie Hail-Jared, Griffith Criminology Institute
Homelessness is commonly associated with images of rough sleeping. There is, however, increasing awareness that the majority of homeless young people are surviving in a less visible way, opting to couch-surf as a way to avoid sleeping rough, to escape child safety intervention or to find safer spaces than their home environments when crisis accommodation is not available or accessible.
A Couch is Not a Home: New Ways of Understanding and Assessing Risks with Young People Who Are Couchsurfing
Ratna Beekman, Jacqui Byrne and Rhianon Vichta-Ohlsen, Brisbane Youth Service
Couchsurfing is the most common, is the least visible, form of homelessness for young people in Australia. Faced with a lack of affordable, safe, or crisis housing options, couchsurfing is often assumed to be a safer option than other forms of homelessness.
Finding Pride: Moving Beyond the Rainbow in Youth Homelessness Services
Theo Butler and Rhianon Vichta-Ohlsen, Brisbane Youth Service
More than half of young people who identify as Lesbian, Gay or Bisexual report compromised or below average living conditions. For Gender Diverse young people this increases to 71 per cent. LGBTIQ+ young people are twice as likely to experience homelessness compared with their heterosexual cis gendered peers, and 33 per cent of queer youth choose not to engage with crisis support centres due to anticipated discrimination.
Youth Homelessness Support and Relationship‑Based Practice in a Time of Social Distancing
Rhianon Vichta-Ohlsen and Brisbane Youth Service Workers, Brisbane Youth Service
As Brisbane Youth Service (BYS) transitioned the majority of its youth housing and homelessness support workers to work from home arrangements due to Covid-19 social distancing restrictions, service delivery was forced to adapt.
Using creativity and innovation in engaging with young people in the new landscape, workers not only developed new ways of working and focusing their engagement with the young people they support; they witnessed the resilience of young people through this crisis time.
Safer inside? Comparing the experiences and risks faced by young people who couch-surf and sleep rough
Katie Hail-Jares, Rhianon Vichta-Ohlsen & Caitlin Nash
As youth homelessness has increased globally, so too has the proportion of young people who are couch-surﬁng. The risks involved in couch-surﬁng, compared to other forms of youth homelessness, are poorly understood. Drawing upon intake records from 808 homeless youth in Brisbane, Australia, the authors examine how couch-surfers compare to rough sleepers as well as other homeless youth on the basis of (1) general demographic characteristics; (2) mental and physical health; (3) legal issues; (4) relationship support; and (5) drug use.
Sustaining Young Tenancies: An Innovative Program to Prevent Homelessness
Dr Nicola Brackertz, Australia Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) and Adam Barnes, Brisbane Youth Service
How can we better sustain the tenancies of young people living in social housing?
This was the question posed by Brisbane Youth Service (BYS), and social housing providers from the Under 1 Roof consortium in 2015. Housing providers were clear that there was a gap in the service system regarding support for young tenants in social housing.
The Recovery Orientation Model in Action: How Meaningful Change Can, and Does, Happen for Homeless Young People
Jacqui de la Rue, Brisbane Youth Service
Innovative mental health approaches are needed to increase access to services that are timely, appropriate, youth-friendly, affordable, and support meaningful recovery.
We are not all the same: Exploring Difference in Young People’s Experiences of Couch Surfing Versus Sleeping Rough
Rhianon Vichta and Katie Hail-Jares, Brisbane Youth Service
Recent surveys of young Australians show more young people couch surfing than ever before, although not all classified themselves as homeless. Envisioning couch surfing as a form of extended sleep-over with a friend has contributed to the perception that couch surfing is a secondary and potentially less concerning form of homelessness; or not even a form of young homelessness at all.
Creating Digital Pathways Out of Homelessness: Digital Technology Design for Young People, Wellbeing and Engagement with Support
Rhianon Vichta, Brisbane Youth Service (BYS) and Dr Karleen Gwinner, Adjunct Research Fellow, Latrobe University, Health Sciences
Improving young people’s engagement with, and pathways through, the homelessness service systems is a priority for the Queensland youth and homelessness sectors.
The Ethical Dimension of Fundraising in the Homelessness Sector
Laura Watson, Brisbane Youth Service
Is there ever truly an ethical way of presenting someone’s suffering and misfortunes?
When speaking for others, sharing and ‘benefiting’ from someone’s own words, what ethical guideposts should we navigate by?
Creating Community: Developing a Group Work Model for Young Women with an Experience of Homelessness
Laura Christie, Brisbane Youth Service Centre for Young Women
In response to a lack of safe spaces for young women to both connect and access supports, Brisbane Youth Service Centre for Young Women has developed a unique group program open to women aged 12 to 25 years who have had an experience of homelessness. With the goal of creating a ‘community of intent’ this model draws from perspectives, frameworks and approaches such as community cultural development, intersectionality and truma-informed practice.
Using Art Therapy as a Tool for Relationship Management in Supported Residential Settings for Homeless Young People
Kristin Penhaligon and Tara Harriden, Brisbane Youth Service
A large proportion of the work in a residential supported accommodation program, is working with young people to get them ready to live independently. The young people have spent varying amounts of time in different stages of homelessness and many have a history of trauma, abuse, neglect, mental health issues (either theirs or their parents’), substance use (theirs or their parents’), etc. As we cater for young people of all genders between 15 and 18 years, there are different levels of emotional/mental maturity, communication skills, intellectual abilities etc. Having to meet new people, make friends and integrate into an unfamiliar living environment can be quite a daunting prospect for some young people.
Intimate Partner Violence and Homelessness: Young Women Lost in the Intersectionality
Rhianon Vichta and Ashleigh Husband, Brisbane Youth Service
While considerable attention has been paid to domestic violence (DV) as a primary cause of homelessness, there has been a historic lack of discourse and awareness across community service systems about the intersectionality of intimate partner violence and homelessness. The commonly used term ‘domestic violence’ defines intimate partner violence by its occurrence within a ‘home’ context, rather than situating it within interpersonal relationships, whereas the term ‘Intimate Partner Violence’ (IPV) is arguably more inclusive of violent experiences that occur outside of the domestic space.
Digital Technology and Youth Mental Health and Wellbeing
Karleen Gwinner, Rhianon Vichta and Brian Collyer, QLD
Putting therapeutic tools for wellbeing directly into the hands of vulnerable young people, on their phones and devices, seems to make good sense. There are a great number of apps and websites which provide guidance and strategies for enhancing wellbeing, including mental health issues and other life challenges common to young people who are dealing with homelessness and other life crises. What we see, however, is that use of these remains limited amongst highly vulnerable and homeless young people.
Sustaining Young Tenancies Evaluation Report
Dr Nicola Brackertz
In 2016-18 Brisbane Youth Service ran a pilot project which took an innovative and collaborative approach to helping young people in social housing sustain their tenancies. This evaluation report by the Australia Housing and Urban Research Institute found that the project was highly effective and delivered significant social wellbeing outcomes, as well as positive housing outcomes, and was good value for money.
The Benefits of Good Governance
Helen Wood, Chair, Brisbane Youth Service Board
While many see ‘feeding the corporate agenda’ as an ineffective use of resources and a diversion of funding from service delivery, if done effectively, good governance, strategic leadership and an effective corporate business model increases an organisation’s ability to not only do more to assist the vulnerable, but also to deliver services in the most effective way.