Every night, around 116,000 Australians sleep without a roof over their head, with ACT reporting the second-highest rate of homelessness in the country in recent years (ABS, 2016; AIHW, 2013). This is a long-standing issue, with ABS reporting a 4.6% rate of increased homelessness over recent years; giving particular light to homeless youths (aged 12-24), making up a substantial 25% of this homelessness figure (ABS, 2016).
Currently, although shortfalls in youth housing/accommodation and available services only heighten the complexity of this problem, early intervention has been proven as the best strategy in preventing this issue for young people. Early intervention “…holds the promise of avoiding or reducing the significant costs associated with homelessness” (Johnson and Chamberlain 2008). Recognising this, CRS implemented its innovated Family Support Program. A preventative program that uniquely puts focus on the whole family unit, rather than one individual young person, through; facilitated family mediation and informal supported conversations, allowing young people to comfortably open up about their home life.
It is this holistic approach, that actualises this long-needed success story for some of Canberra’s most vulnerable youths. In 2018, CRS received 461 referrals to the Family Support Program, with a 92% success rate being witnessed across addressed cases. Teaching families to resolve issues through organised mediation sessions, has improved participant health and wellbeing, allowing family members to reconnect and stay engaged. The program has improved school attendance for students aged 8-15, while reducing workplace absenteeism for parents. Participants also demonstrated improved self-esteem, reduction in anti-social behaviours, drug/alcohol and criminal activity. In suit, the Family Support Program hence reduced the need for young people to seek homelessness services in the ACT, with many young participants choosing to stay at home.