COULD you stretch $201.35 to cover all your expenses for a week — accommodation, food, transport, phone bill and spending money?
It’s a task that faces at least 300 North East school children who become homeless every year.
Because they don’t have anywhere to live, they don’t get rent assistance and that leaves them with just the government youth allowance to get by.
Wangaratta youth support agency NESAY is to raise awareness of their plight by challenging community members, politicians and police take a walk in the shoes of homeless teens and live on their tiny budget.
They either pay $10 a night out of their $201.35 budget for the luxury of sleeping in their own beds, or pay nothing and spend the night on the couch.
If they opt for a bed, that will leave them about $10 a day for food, $5 for transport and just $16.35 a week to spend on clothes, entertainment or anything other than the basics.
Wangaratta Inspector David Ryan launched the challenge yesterday and said he didn’t think many understood how big a problem youth homelessness was in the region because it was “unseen”.
“In our community you don’t see people sleeping under bridges or lurking in doorways and that sort of thing,” he said.
“People share accommodation and coach surf.
“The risk is that the longer they’re not accommodated in a safe location, it becomes a long-term pattern of behaviour for them.
“They become long-term unemployed homeless people.
“Keeping them in school and the community is important.”
Insp Ryan is one of those who will try to survive on a couple of hundred dollars from October 15 to 21, along with Benalla mayor Peter Dunn.
NESAY manager of operations Angelique Phillips said the initiative would raise funds to run a respite accommodation program which supports families so young people can return to their home.
For more information about the “Live on Youth Allowance Challenge” contact NESAY on (03) 5720 2201.