Youth homelessness needs attention in our community
December 5, 2016

Zack Bryers, Youth Outreach Worker at YouthCare CanberraR


The issue of homelessness in Canberra is very prominent.

You wouldn’t suspect it from the reputation of Canberra in the wider world, but there are many young people who are in some very risky situations.

There are two areas where we get a bottleneck – we have a lack of crisis accommodation to deal with the workload of kids that we deal with, and we also have a lack of transitional accommodation.

A lot of times young people will get into a refuge, but they’ll struggle to find anywhere to go after that, so it can repeat itself over and over. The rental market in Canberra is very high and when you’re on Centrelink, private rent may not be an option. Then you have to wait for government housing which is a long process. It’s a very difficult situation.

The majority of people we work with are aged between 16 and 20 years old and are just starting to transition into their own independence. Unfortunately, they find they’re handcuffed in terms of finding housing and work, and are therefore struggling to pay rent and go on from there.

Synergy has made a huge contribution to YCC. The assistance Synergy provides has helped us to employ a second worker. Not only does it mean that I have support in my role and someone that can back me up and make me feel a lot more comfortable, but we can also branch out and work with more kids and provide more services.

As YouthCare Canberra is a proactive youth service, we are often able to develop a unique and special bond with the youth we help.

Establishing that link means we can have conversations about each individual’s goals and dreams. As long as we have that link, we can hopefully spark something within them and keep them from just disappearing and falling off the wagon again.

One of the success stories closest to my heart, that demonstrates the importance of the face-to-face service we provide, is in relation to a 16-year-old boy. This boy had escaped a domestic violence situation at his parents’ house in Sydney, jumped on a bus down to Canberra and called me around 6:30pm that night. In conjunction with other agencies, we were able to get him into a refuge and provide him with food and other vital necessities. We helped him to get an ID and qualify for Centrelink, allowing him to move out into his own shared apartment.

This is an awesome kid, and his dream was to become a professional soccer player. To help him reach his dream, we secured him a full scholarship to Erindale Sports Academy and introduced him to a soccer team where he was offered a senior’s role, that’s 18 and above, because of his talent. We helped to give him the tools he needed to get the inside track on his goals. He called me the other day with one of the most heartfelt thanks I’ve ever heard. He’s now working two jobs, going to school and still chasing his  soccer dream.

Our partnership with Synergy has allowed YCC to double our flexible outreach service, providing Canberra’s youth with the guidance and mentoring they need to get back on the right track.

I look forward to working with Synergy to achieve more success stories.