...it is easier for governments to deal with the concept [homelessness] narrowly by focusing on the attributes of shelter, hence the original setting up of refuges without adequate backup and no satisfactory exit programs...
...Providing adequate housing is an essential response, but...a most insufficient one and often ineffective if it stands alone.'
18.1 Preceding chapters indicate both the diversity of accommodation services for children and young
people in Australia and the severe shortage of places in existing services. In this chapter we are concerned more with the quality of services as they affect individual homeless children. We focus, therefore, on the objectives and methods of accommodation services.
18..2 The Inquiry considers community-based services to be the most effective in achieving the
objectives which are central to the needs of homeless youth. In this chapter we identify the objectives which such services incorporate. We also consider several other 'models' which have significantly assisted homeless children and young people. While emphasising objectives rather than structures, we conclude the chapter with-a discussion of the organsiational structure of community-based schemes and the reasons for their success.
OBJECTIVES OF ACCOMMODATION SERVICES
18.3 Evidence presented to the Inquiry clearly indicated the urgent need for a preventive approach to
homelessness among children and young people. Accommodation services are among several resources in our community — including school counsellors, State child welfare authorities and generalist youth services — which could, if adequately funded, trained and directed, undertake effective preventive programs for families and children at risk. Our churches also obviously have an important role in many cases. Prevention of homelessness among children and young people would be the most effective way of ensuring that children and young people at risk of becoming homeless enjoy the rights set out in the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, notably the rights to adequate housing and to protection from exploitation and abuse.
18.4 Family reconciliation is a major means of preventing long-term homelessness and should be a
primary aim of youth accommodation services where it is both possible and appropriate. This is a subject to which we have given detailed consideration in Chapter 20, Support Needs and Services. The Inquiry found, in fact, that few services are able to give effective time and effort to individual family reconciliation. Supporting residents to move into secure and adequate permanent accommodation is an alternative means — and for many the only available means — to avoid longer-term homelessness. The Inquiry found, however, that there are so few longer-term accommodation options available to children and young people that even services which give this objective a high priority are successful in placing only a minority of homeless youth.
18..5 Models of accommodation service provision which commended themselves to the Inquiry,
therefore, incorporated the following emphases:
prevention of homelessness among the children and young people of the local community;
family reconciliation where possible and appropriate;
preparing all clients unable to return to their families for independent living by providing support, living skills and related training, counselling and appropriate referrals and advocacy. They have the
objective of 'bridging the program gap between crisis refuge accommodation and fully independent accommodation for youth'.2 They often themselves provide long-term accommodation in recognition of the fact that young people face difficulties in obtaining access to such accommodation without special assistance.
18.6 Accommodation services must recognise, respect and protect the rights of all children (see
Chapter 4, The Rights of the Child). In particular, the accommodation which is provided must be 'adequate' in that it is suitable to the needs of the individual child and is secure. The child must be protected from abuse in that accommodation. Services must also recognise the right of a child of sufficient maturity to make his or her own decisions regarding place of residence and lifestyle. Younger children should participate in the making of such decisions affecting them.
Range of Options
18.7 Evidence to the Inquiry also strongly supported the need for a range of referral and placement
options so that the accommodation and support services provided can be fitted to the needs of each child. Shared housing is not suitable for all young people and can be contrary to the best interests of some. Such households can break down, for example, perpetuating the cycle of 'failure'. Many witnesses stressed the need for a range of housing types — including self-contained apartments, boarding-houses and lodging-houses, as well as shared, multi-bedroom housing.'
We would recommend a range of options being available in both supported and non-supported accommodation to community groups and direct tenancy through public housing agencies in both the cities and the rural areas...
Single units, shared housing in small groups, outreach housing, transition housing, access to relationships training, life skill courses, outreach support: all these things are needed by agencies in the private sector to be able to cope with the need that is being passed on to them...4
18.8 The group of homeless children and young people with whom the Inquiry was concerned is very
diverse. Their backgrounds and their reasons for leaving home vary-as do their ages at departure (see Chapter 6, The Incidence of Youth Homelessness). Their maturity and ability to live independently vary enormously and their needs for support, counselling and therapy also vary (see Chapter 14, Youth Supported Accommodation Program). Evidence to the Inquiry indicated, therefore, that accommodation services for children and young people must take an individualised approach if they are adequately to address the diverse needs of clients. The service provided must be designed around each child according to his or her needs. This process will require the following:
appropriately trained staff;
flexibility in program delivery; and
time and resources to devote to individual program development and implementation.
18.9 As described in Chapter 15, Youth Supported Accommodation Program, the existing mechanism
for the provision of government-funded crisis accommodation to children and young people does not encourage services to operate in this way and, in some cases, services which do so have actually been refused funding. (One recent instance of this is an intensive supported living program for especially difficult children, 'Knights Hill' in New South Wales, which has been successful in reuniting over one-third of the children assisted with their families. This program's grant has been reduced by the New South Wales Government and it will probably have to close down.)5
18.10 Physical shelter, then, is only one basic factor in service provision for homeless children and young people. Barnardo's Australia submitted to the Inquiry that:
...policy to address homelessness among young people should recognise that being without a home is only one aspect of the problems facing affected individuals and families. Thus provision of accommodation is only a partial answer to the problem. Adequate counselling, social support and training to ensure eventual economic independence as well as job opportunities, must be included in any response to the problems confronting this group.'
Integration and Co-ordination
18.11 Accommodation services must not only recognise the need of each child for a range of services but must co-operate in the co-ordination of service delivery to ensure that services are compatible, accessible and relevant.' A number of witnesses stressed the importance of co-ordinating not just the services provided to young homeless people, but also services designed to prevent homelessness, and long-term services for unsupported or independent young people.
...we recommend that the Commonwealth policies direct funding to the States on a basis of a holistic approach to child homelessness, offering a variety of long-term options for alternate care, which include adoption and an encouragement to develop adequate and realistic preventive programs.'
Family Action in Victoria submitted that there is a need for:
...a comprehensive co-ordinated approach to youth needs at all levels — including necessary resourcing of family directed preventative and remedial effort.'
18.12 Critical to the success of any program for homeless young people are outreach services and information provision. These must be relevant and accessible if they are to provide the necessary pathway to the services for homeless youth — who are typically alienated from most social institutions and often completely ignorant of services available to them. The Queensland Government, in a submission to the Inquiry, identified access to information as an important aid in the provision of a comprehensive set of services:
A problem arises in the availability of information about housing options and support services. Many government and community agencies do not provide information or referral services outside of working hours. Even though a number of agencies do provide information about services there appears to be no information sharing mechanism in operation and homeless youth are often ignorant of the options available to them.
The challenge ahead is for a co-ordinated, wide dissemination of existing information to agencies and homeless youth in forms which are culturally appropriate and relevant.'
18.13 RECOMMENDATION 18.1
The Inquiry recommends that the following broad principles should apply to all accommodation services; whether provided by community-based organisations, non-government welfare organisations or by the public sector:
services should not separate a child from his or her existing networks including, wherever appropriate, the family. They should aim to assist the child to develop supportive networks within the community;
services must respect the rights of the child;
if reunion with the family is not possible or appropriate, and if placing the child in another stable living arrangement is not possible, services should assist each child to grow towards independence; and
services should provide the full range of support required by each child or should assist the child to obtain such support. An integrated service or a network of co-operating and well coordinated services is, therefore, essential.
An Integrated Service: Logan City (Queensland)
18.14 Logan City is an area south of Brisbance which has experienced a very high rate of population growth over the past decade, with the result that service provision has not kept pace with the needs of the area. A high proportion of families are dependent on welfare and live in public housing. Youth and Family Services Inc., Logan City (Logan City) had its genesis in 1983 when three Christian Brothers, with the assistance of local people in this new and expanding city near the Gold Coast, provided a support and advocacy service for young people appearing before the Beenleigh Children's Court. The group, in co-operation with the local office of the (then) Department of Children's Services, also developed a preventive and support program for young offenders and their peers. In 1985, in recognition of the disproportionate percentage of local young people in custodial institutions and following allegations of police misconduct by young people and their families, the organisation established a broader range of programs. In 1986, a committee was formed to run the service and the organisation became an incorporated association.
18.15 Logan City is now an example of a community-based organisation established to respond to the needs of homeless and 'at risk' children and young people in its local area. It is an 'integrated service' in that its programs include the provision of medium and long-term accommodation, share-housing, employment and training programs, street contact programs, literacy programs, women's groups, parent survival courses, court work, a truancy program and programs for young offenders.
18.16 In a submission to the Inquiry, Logan City identified several important factors which have led to the success of its program:
Firstly, it has strong ties to the local community. Secondly, its roots began in the juvenile justice system which was often the first sign of family problems and provided insight into what the needs of this young community were — accommodation for young people, support for many families living in Logan City, unemployment and advocacy issues. Thirdly, decisions were made to attempt a more varied accommodation approach to youth homelessness, than simply creating emergency time frame shelters, which address the immediate problem of a roof over one's head. This varied approach assessed the broader and longer-term needs of homeless young people."
18.17 Logan City offers three accommodation programs. The first is 'Atkinson Street', a 24-hour supervised medium-term accommodation residence, which can accommodate four young people for periods up to 12 months. This program's focus is on meeting the varied needs of each young person, with some contact with the natural family and the training of volunteers who staff the residence. The second program is 'Youth Link'. This is a boarding program providing medium-term community placements with private households in and around Logan City for young people under 18 years of age who are unable to live at home. Youth Link currently has 12 families who accommodate homeless young people for up to six months. Youth Link also involves counselling work with natural families, family boarding training for the volunteer householders and intensive work with the young person. Finally, there is `Sharehousing', an accommodation program for families or young people which provides housing for a period of up to six months. This program has five houses including Housing Commission demolition stock and privately rented houses.12 In addition to these direct accommodation services, Logan City offers follow-up advocacy and support to young people who are living independently.
18.18 In its submission to the Inquiry, Logan City noted that two factors helped focus the efforts of the community in designing its accommodation programs:
Firstly, there is no emergency accommodation shelter as this was not seen to be a primary need, given the lack of any longer term accommodation resources south of the Brisbane River. Secondly, when young people approach our agency for accommodation the decision on where the person is placed is also based on where the young person wants to live — with a family, semi-independently or independently, as well as a consideration of the child's needs at the time.'
8.19 The Logan City community, however, was not content to provide accommodation services alone. The aim was to provide as full a range of youth services as possible — determined by the particular needs of the locality and of the young people seeking assistance — and to provide these services in an integrated manner so that all services would be mutually reinforcing. One major project is the Youth Employment and Training Program which includes four particular projects. These are:
youth employment training courses which are of six weeks duration and are aimed,at preparing young people for employment;
'Pixie Catering' which is a luncheon service provided by young people to the staff of Logan City Council. It provides young people with training in the catering field and makes a small contribution to their income. This service is now nearing financial self-sufficiency;
a poster group which provides young people with a chance to improve their creative skills and a reason to meet regularly; and
a youth employment support group which meets weekly. This group is for young people who are in employment and who need to discuss problems they are having in the workforce.
In addition, the service runs a literacy program, offering remedial reading and writing assistance to young people over the age of 15 years, and a communication program. The latter is a nine week course conducted for young people who are having speech difficulties. The course is jointly sponsored by the Queensland Department of Rehabilitation Services, with the aim that the Logan City service will eventually develop the skills to conduct the program unaided.
18.20 Stemming from the service's beginnings in the juvenile justice area, prevention and rehabilitation are still primary objectives. The following programs are relevant in this context:
the street contact program: a service for young people over the age of 15 who live highly mobile lives and who are often in trouble with the police. The service offers a venue, people to talk to and activities;
the camping program: provides outdoor and adventure experiences, aiming to build self-esteem and to allow staff to build relationships with the young people;
the Woodridge Adolescent Group (WAG): a 13 week program for young offenders and those at risk of offending. It is a three hour a week commitment with two weekend camps. This program is conducted in close liaison with the Queensland Department of Family Services;
court work: a worker from the service liaises with the Department of Family Services prior to the court day and attends court to provide support and information for young people and their families. Monthly visits are also made to Westbrook, the local detention centre, transporting local families to visit their children who are in custody; and
the truancy program: this program works with 13 and 14-year-olds who are not attending school, with the aim of returning them to school full-time. A new school for truants is to open in Woodridge in 1989 in co-operation with Boystown.'
18.21 Family support programs are also offered:
VOCAL: a support group for women whose children have been sexually interfered with by their spouses. The group meets weekly and is sponsored by the Sexual Abuse Treatment Unit of the Department of Family Services and Kingston East Neighbourhood Centre; and
parent survival courses: nine week courses open to parents in the community who are experiencing difficulties with their adolescents.
18.22 In summary, Logan City incorporates the following important features:
a specific community is served and involved;
management is by representatives from that community;
close relations are maintained with government bodies concerned with children's welfare — the
epartment of Family Services, the local c lildran's court and the local detention centre -- and with the local government authority;
the capacity and commitment to deliver individual ser\ +ce packages:
an overview of the needs of the community and the flexibility to respond to changing needs;
a preventive approach to juvenile offending, child abuse, family disintegration and youth homelessness;
a commitment to family support and family reconciliation;
avec' ity for and commitment to long-term support for children and young people; and
le overall management of a variety of services/programs. facilitating integration and enhancing co-ordination.
A Staged Accommodation Service: 13ABI (Queensland)
18..23 Bayside Adolescent Boarding, Inc. (BABI) is a community-based organisation located in
Wynnum and Manly, a well-established lower and middle income outer suburbs of Brisbane. ,BABI has been in operation since October 1982. It provides support and accommodation for local homeless young people from 12 to 20 years of age. and provides education and support for the families of adolescents. A major aim of BABI is either to restore young people to their families or at least develop a
relationship between the family and the homeless young person where appropriate. Where it is inappropriate f or young people to be reunited with their families, BABI provides alternative accommodation. BABI attempts to assist each young homeless client through crisis to successful independent living by offering a range of accommodation options designed to permit staged progress
towards independence. It is 'an integrated youth housing network incorporating 'supported. semi-supported and independent housing levels'. Continuity of care and the design and implementation of long-term individualised 'case management' packages are facilitated in this type of program.
18,24 The program assists young people from the local area, thereby enabling them to continue contact with their families. friends and local school. One of BABI's principles is to involve all 'parties' — homeless young people, their natural families, their boarding families, BABI office staff, members of the local community and professional staff from local offices of State government departments, especially the Departments of Health and Family Services — in the development of its programs.'
18.25 BABI's first service was a short-term boarding or community placement program. 'Community placement' is the provision of accommodation and a negotiated level of support for a homeless young person within an established household for a length of time that is appropriate to all those involved. BABIs program utilises the services of ten families who take in young people for periods up to three months. That is to say. these families provide emergency and short-term accommodation. The aim is bluntly reconciliation for the young boarder \V here this is not possible. workers must attempt to locate a
iable longer-term alternative. However, as the Inquiry \vas told:
We found...that lots of young people. hen it Came to the cn t.co-n-,onth placement, were
beginning to attempt to Commit suicide or run away.. they \\.oR' redly rruhtenct about going home. They were :ying it would not work when they got home to their
18.26 In response, the organisation developed 'supervised community housing'. There are two houses
in operation where three or four young people live in a family situation with volunteer houseparents living-in. The young residents pay board of $40 per week.' Another response is the medium to longer term community placement prograrn Another ten families in the local community take in homeless young people for a longer period of time, depending on individual need. BABI also operates an unsupervised house and a flat in the area.
18.27 BABI is operated by a management committee which is community-based. The staff of the program includes an administrator who is a volunteer a paid co-ordinator (full-time) and a social worker (part-time). The community, administration and even boarding families donate their time and services. BABI estimates that 2,462 hours of voluntary work per week are performed be members of the local