Gypsy Harris has a thing for shoes. She’s a Queenslander “through and through”, and loves being near the water. She is now bright eyed and bubbly but until recently, struggling with depression and anxiety, Gypsy lived on the streets.

The 18-year-old is just one of the 4,500 young people, aged between 12 and 24, who face homelessness in Queensland every night. But thanks to a recent funding boost BYS is ensuring simple, everyday items afford dignity to  young people sleeping rough in Brisbane.

From simple food, water bottles and sleeping bags to a phone charger and a Go Card for travel, BYS’s  Dignity Packs are filled with necessities that make a big difference in young people’s lives. Items like socks, sunscreen, moisturiser and insect repellent protect basic health, while torches promote safety and first aid supplies; deodorants and washing supplies promote self-care.

Our workers may be the first contact young people who are sleeping rough have with support services and the possibility of getting off the streets and into safe and secure housing.

Di Mahoney, BYS Acting CEO and Service Delivery Director, said the Dignity Packs provide young people sleeping rough with basic supplies for their immediate safety and health, while building engagement to connect them to networks of professional support services and assisting them to transition to accommodation.

“BYS has always had a strong commitment to proactive outreach services engaging young people who are most at-risk and sleeping rough in inner city Brisbane,” Ms Mahoney said.

“Our workers may be the first contact young people who are sleeping rough have with support services and the possibility of getting off the streets and into safe and secure housing.

“A key part of the success of the Street Outreach program is being able to provide young people with essential items for their health and well-being. The Dignity Backpacks are compact bags, easily carried, and contain essential hygiene and health supplies.

“This important funding enabled BYS to continue to provide a consistent supply of the items that are really useful to vulnerable young people.”

The Dignity Packs are delivered by BYS’s Street Outreach teams; youth and health workers who may be the first contact  street sleeping young people have with support services.

Between 2017 and 2018, fifty-five per cent of the 1355 young people first accessing support at BYS were homeless. Eighty per cent were living in unsafe, unsuitable, overcrowded, unaffordable or temporary accommodation and said that they needed help with housing, while sixty-eight per cent rated themselves as being in a crisis or serious housing situation.

For many years, BYS has delivered outreach services to Brisbane’s street-sleeping youth depending on funding and capacity, with workers seeking to build trust and helping with basic needs such as food, water, transport assistance and access to specialist support at BYS or elsewhere.

The latest round of Dignity Packs reached more than 175 street-sleeping young people in Brisbane and was made possible with grants from the Brisbane Lord Mayor’s Charitable Trust Grant Fund, and the Department of Justice and Attorney Generals Gambling Community Benefit fund.