THE case of a Wodonga boy who couldn’t start school because his mother had been “couch surfing” throughout his early childhood is yet another disturbing outcome of the Border’s homelessness crisis.
The boy hadn’t been sent to preschool during the years he and his mother were going from place to place.
By the time the boy reached school age, he was unable to join his peers because he had received no early childhood education.
He’s not the only child to miss out when parents are unable to secure a permanent home.
Child protection authorities are often involved when young parents are living in overcrowded and/or dysfunctional homes and in cases where homeless pregnant women don’t attend medical check-ups.
About 19 homeless pregnant girls and women are waiting for help in Wodonga and the Rural Housing Network and Junction Support Services are calling for the establishment of a new young mums’ centre for emergency cases.
Junction Support Services youth services manager Katharine Hodgens said about once a month a homeless mum-to-be would turn up at Wodonga Hospital to give birth, without ever having come to the attention of medical staff or social services.
In recent months a 19-year-old, who’d been kicked out of home by her family, arrived at the hospital and gave birth to twins.
She has since been placed in transitional housing.
Ms Hodgens said many people did not know where to go to get help if they found themselves on the street.
Young parents’ case manager with Junction Support Services Pip Northam said those with no fixed address often found themselves disconnected from the community and subsequently so did their children.
“When they’re homeless their children are not interacting with other children their age so they might not know what’s normal development,” Ms Northam said.
“Normally if you’re in childcare the childcare worker will pick up the early signs.”
During the past year Junction Support Services helped 1349 people of all ages who were homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, many of them young families.
Ms Hodgens said it would be ideal if they had a young mums’ crisis accommodation centre.
“We have a two-bedroom young mums’ unit that needs improving and it would be great if the community could get behind us and donate some items.
“In particular we are looking for a shade sail, sand pit, play equipment, couch and outdoor setting.”
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