An initiative that gives homeless youth a roof over their heads and access to education - proven to work in 85 per cent of cases - could make a significant difference on the Border.
Wodonga Council will "advocate to governments to fund a feasibility study for a Youth Foyer", which has operated in Shepparton since 2016.
Beyond Housing partners with Berry Street and GOTAFE to operate the foyer for 40 people aged 16 to 24, and housing services manager Leisa Makszin said her organisation managed the property.
"To be eligible to participate, a young person has to sign up to 'the deal' and show they will commit to education or training," she said.
"They need to be able to live in an environment where they're going to be involved in the community and do volunteering, and gain employment."
Ms Makszin said just like a usual tenancy, the young people could not breach their agreement and contributed money to living there.
"There's a real educational component around living independently," she said.
"Berry Street are on site 24/7 and do the life skills and development, looking towards mental and physical health support, drug and alcohol support, and mentoring for employment assistance or volunteering."
An evaluation done recently for the Brotherhood of St Laurence, which formed the model used in Victoria, found in the year after youth left their foyers 85 per cent worked or studied, and the percentage sleeping rough fell from 32 to 3 per cent.
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"Forty kids is not a lot, but it absolutely does help to reduce the rate (of homelessness)," Ms Makszin said.
"The bottom line of this is there's just not enough crisis accommodation for youth."
The draft Youth Strategy put out for consultation by Wodonga Council recognises that "national research suggests little progress has been made in the past 10 years to reduce youth homelessness" and in Wodonga "community housing providers report a lack of appropriate housing options for young people".
If Wodonga was 100 young people
- There would be six more males than females with the spread of their age groups being about equal
- Five would be born overseas and four would be indigenous
- 90 of them have completed year 12, 60 are employed, 19 volunteer and 14 are unemployed
- 70 have a trusted adult in their life, and 91 'feel safe', but half have been bullied recently and 15 have experience high levels of psychological distress(Source: Wodonga Council draft Youth Strategy)
Asked if the council's strategy went far enough, deputy mayor Kat Bennett said, "It's a step in the right direction, but there's still so much more that needs to be done".
"I saw something from Uniting Care that Wodonga has nearly 200 homeless people, and I would say it's even more than that," she said.
"Council and a whole range of organisations really need to step up, because that's just appalling.
"We shouldn't be living in a time where that's happening."
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