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Media Release by Senator the Hon Mark Arbib

Conference looks for ways to end youth homelessness

A national youth homelessness conference is bringing together Governments, homelessness services, advocates and young people who are united in a desire to end youth homelessness.

The Minister for Homelessness and Social Housing Mark Arbib said the Yfoundations’ Ending Youth Homelessness Conference 2011, which opened in Sydney today, would provide valuable new insights into ending youth homelessness.

“This conference is a wonderful opportunity for people to come together to learn and share ideas on the best approaches to addressing youth homelessness, by thinking globally and acting locally,” Senator Arbib said.

“Many people associate homelessness with an image of a middle aged man, with drug or alcohol problems sleeping rough. They can fail to take into account the 44,000 young people under the age of 25 who do not have a home.

“These people are the ‘hidden’ homeless because often they’re sleeping at a mates’ place on the couch or floor, or they are living in other unstable situations.

“According to 2006 Census figures young people account for more than 40 percent of people who are homeless – the largest group of people experiencing homelessness.”

One of the conference facilitators, Sebastian Robertson, founder of youth mental health organisation Batyr, said it was extremely important that those experiencing youth homelessness were supported.

“It’s essential to work with young people and provide the support they need, so we can intervene as early as possible to stop the cycle of homelessness,” Mr Robertson said.

“Many young people experiencing homelessness are also dealing with other issues such as mental health.  We need to ensure that they are made aware of and encouraged to use the services available provided by both the Government and NGOs”

Senator Arbib said the Government was providing a range of services that not only put a roof over people’s heads, but provided education, training, mentoring and support.

“We have invested $550 million over five years to the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness to deliver new and better support and accommodation to homeless people across Australia,” Senator Arbib said.

“Under the Agreement, 38 of the more than 180 new or expanded homelessness initiatives are specifically targeted to youth including the development of seven Youth Foyer facilities and support for young people leaving home care and juvenile justice.

“The Government has also invested about $24 million in extra funding to the Reconnect program to extend it to June 2012.

“The Reconnect program provides early intervention support for young people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness including counseling, mediation and practical support.”

For more information on the End Youth Homelessness Conference 2011, visit www.yaa.com.au.