WRAP around support for homeless youth

Homelessness Week is held every year at the beginning of August to raise awareness about people experiencing homelessness, the issues they face, and the action needed. This year the theme for Homelessness Week  is Everybody Needs a Home.
Almost 30 years ago, the 20th Man Fund (now known as the Les Twentyman Foundation) established a youth refuge in Sunshine. Our Founder, Les Twentyman OAM, worked with David Smorgon OAM, the Footscray Football Club, the former Kennett Government and local business to raise enough money to build the refuge which still operates today. In partnership with Melbourne City Mission, the youth refuge provides a stable place for young people to get their lives back on track, to be safe from violence and to build a brighter future. Melbourne City Mission Youth Refuge Worker, Nova Clough, took some time to give us an update on the youth refuge in the Q&A.


Tell us a little about the youth refuge in Sunshine.

The Western Region Accommodation Program (WRAP) in Sunshine is operated through Melbourne City Mission, and works to support young people experiencing homelessness. Through our work here, we aim to provide a trauma informed, holistic approach to practice, that works to support young people in finding sustainable housing options. We further work to support our young people to achieve any other personal and individualised case management goals they may have. These can include, but are certainly not limited to; linking them in with mental health supports, education or employment, and any social or development supports to encourage development and growth. We work to provide a safe and inclusive environment for all young people to thrive, with staff being on site 24-hours a day. A typical day in the refuge can range from staff providing the case management previously mentioned, to working with the young people to cook, clean, garden or provide emotional and social support within the space, all the while working with them to improve their individual outcomes.


How many young people are currently supported at the property?

At WRAP, we currently have a non-gendered one bedroom unit, a two bedroom female unit, a two bedroom male unit, and two family units that can hold up to two adults and their children.


How many young people have been supported since the property was established?

With the property being established in 1995, and numerous organisations working out of the property in this time, it is difficult to say the exact number of young people the property has supported. The lives that this property has worked to positively impact is immeasurable. Young people leave here with prospects, with hope and resilience, instilled in them from both their life experiences, and their time here.  It provides a safe space for learning, healing, and development.


How does having access to housing change a young person’s life?

Access to stable housing in a young person’s life is integral to them being able to work to better their outcomes in life. Homelessness is detrimental to young people’s development, it can affect all aspects of their life and the systems that exist within it, and is a very difficult cycle to break. By having access to safe, secure, sustainable housing, a young person is given the opportunity to focus on their own growth and development, through various avenues, rather than pure survival. This gives them the further opportunity to contribute to the society they live in.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted young people using your services?

COVID-19 has had huge impact on the young people we support at WRAP. Supports within the sector have dwindled, including employment and education services, and social groups. These supports are so important to young people working to better their current situation, and without them, young people’s general experience of life and opportunities are greatly impacted. Unemployment rates in young people are at an all-time high, impacting their access to basic human rights, such as a safe place to sleep and food. For young people, accessing mental health services can be difficult, with a growing demand, although a lack of resources.


How many young people in Victoria are homeless?

Victoria is experiencing a homelessness crisis. In the 2016 census, over 24,000 Victorians were experiencing homelessness, with young people aged 16-24 making up the highest percentage of those experiencing homelessness.