Jack Knight was 18 when a family breakdown left him homeless, in Frankston, in 2015.
Most important points:
Advocacy groups say there is a dire shortage of emergency housing in the Frankston-Mornington Peninsula area
He spent a few nights on a friend’s couch before ending up in a garage.
“It was very cold,” he said.
“I just started wandering around Frankston because I didn’t know what to do next.”
He said he had come across a meeting place for young people, and someone offered him a sausage in bread.
“I was just like, I have nowhere to go,” he said.
A social worker helped him to find temporary housing and a shared house.
Nowhere local to refer young people
Mr. Knight began studying youth work and now helps other youth who are homeless as a case manager with a support service in Frankston.
He said there was no local place to refer young people to crisis shelters when they needed it.
“You could turn around and say, ‘Hey, there might be a bed in North Melbourne tonight, but say it’s a 16-year-old who lives in Frankston or Rosebud, and they’re still going to high school, they can it just’. Not come,” he said.
“And you’re going to expect them to take public transportation and get up at 4 a.m. to go to school? That’s just not possible.’
North Melbourne is over 90 km from Rosebud, and the journey can take over 2.5 hours by public transport one way.
He said he speaks “every day” with a young person needing crisis shelter.
“It’s discouraging,” he said.
Demand doubles during a pandemic.
A group of local support services has teamed up to call on the state and federal governments to fund crisis shelters for youth in the Frankston-Mornington Peninsula area.
Youth Support and Advocacy Service chief executive Andrew Bruun said at least 390 people aged 15-25 have needed emergency housing in the past two years, but there is no local place to send them.
He said that number has doubled since 2020.
Andrew Bruun says housing problems have worsened dramatically since the start of the pandemic. (included)
Mr. Bruun said sending young people to Highett, St Kilda, or Dandenong was inappropriate, especially as most of them depended on public transport.
“If they have to leave the region, they disrupt their supportive and helpful relationships with family, service providers, and schools,” he said.
“So everything gets disrupted, and it’s the opposite of what it takes for someone to get stable and get back on a positive development path.”
Mr. Bruun said the group was seeking a pledge from the federal and state governments to support the provision of emergency shelters for young people in Frankston and the Mornington Peninsula.
He said talks had been held with all levels of government, but no firm commitment has been made yet.
“People agree there’s a need; it’s really about getting the government’s machinery moving,” he said.
Mr. Knight now lives in a shared house in Frankston, but although he has a steady job, he says he still doesn’t feel completely safe.
“I’m a bit worried about the future and how I’ll ever be able to buy a house here,” he said.
He said he was looking for a one-bedroom apartment near Frankston.
“I offered six months in advance and didn’t get a bite,” he said.
“They charge $350-$400 a week. That’s almost half my income.”
Advocacy groups say the long distances to available crisis shelters near Melbourne make it unfeasible for many young people in need. (ABC News: Margaret Paul)
The government says more accommodation is coming.
There are more than 20 youth crisis shelters spread across Victoria.
A Victorian government spokesman said it had made the largest social housing investment in state history, including the $5.3 billion Big Housing Build.
“Last December, the Victorian government announced $50 million in new housing projects for young people aged 15 to 24 who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness throughout Victoria,” the spokesperson said.
“The town halls have been asked to submit proposals, which will be announced in the coming weeks.”
In a statement, Labor Dunkley MP Peta Murphy said she supports more youth shelters in the local community.
“Our community lacks local housing options for young people,” she said.
“Many who need emergency shelter must travel more than two hours, leaving behind their community and support.”
The ABC contacted the Liberal candidates for Dunkley and Flinders for comment.