In October, a group of Seattle Times journalists crossed the Pacific in search of strategies to prevent youth homelessness.
They came to investigate 'The Geelong Project' and how the model might work in their city, in the same way it has in Canada and the UK.
The international uptake of Geelong's initiative, harmonising schools and support services, puts into perspective the significance of Albury being the second Australian site.
Swinburne University Associate Professor David Mackenzie has helped Albury make the model their own.
"Geelong was the pioneering site, and there's a number of others we hope will get off the ground," he said.
"A team from Albury attended a conference in 2015 that I spoke at, and they said to me when we connected in early 2018, "we haven't stopped talking about the Geelong Project'.
"The Australian work has gone international, which is really gratifying, and Albury is the next cab off the rank."
How it works
The Geelong Project began with three pilot high schools, a not-for-profit, Swinburne University, headspace Geelong, the Local Learning and Employment Network.
Students were surveyed to assess their well-being with the intention of offering varying levels of support at the earliest possible point.
While the 'Community of Schools and Services' (COSS) model that enables it all to happen may seem complex, the results are easy to understand.
Between 2013 and 2016, the number of adolescents entering the Specialist Homelessness Service system in Geelong declined by 40 per cent, and students leaving school early reduced by 20 per cent.
Working through an organisation called Upstream Australia, Professor Mackenzie provides the "backbone support" for those communities who want to create their own 'Geelong Project'.
"It's engaging with the whole school community to find out which young people are more likely to leave school or become homeless, and then interacting with them and their families to find out what we can do, to make sure that doesn't happen," he said.
"What has been achieved in Geelong, I'm very confident will be achieved in Albury.
"Albury is looking at reforming their workforce, so there is an early intervention platform with youth and family workers who can flexibly work where they need to work."
Yes Unlimited, which first had a presence in Albury with a youth refuge in 1978, has been following the Geelong Project over the past five years.
Client services manager Jon Park said the idea of engaging with Professor Mackenzie came about through a number of community forums, including one that he spoke at in March 2018 attended by 70 key stakeholders.
"Young people often turn up to our service when things have gone really wrong," Mr Park said.
"The idea with this is we try and get things in place and address the issue, before it escalates into something big.
"There was no funding with this model initially, it was about a number of different services coming together and pooling resources.
"State government saw what we were doing and jumped on board."
Lead by Yes Unlimited, the Albury Project incorporates Albury, James Fallon and Murray high schools, headspace Albury-Wodonga, Albury Council, Albury Community Mental Health and the NSW departments of education and communities and justice.
On the path
The project team has moved quickly since funding came through earlier this year.
Yes Unlimited was able to appoint a project officer in Bec Glen, and the first survey was done in August at the schools - alongside a barbecue to keep things casual and positive.
"We get the survey results, and then we do a follow-up interview, just to confirm those results," Ms Glen said.
"From there, we have a conversation with the young person to see what they've already got in place and talk about what we might be able to offer.
"Because it's an early-intervention focus, we see it more as offering opportunities to young people and their families, as opposed to helping someone experiencing something difficult."
The approach is tailored to each student; it might vary from group-work to therapeutic counselling.
Karina Kerr, manager of headspace Albury-Wodonga, is among those who feed into a strategy of care for students.
"What we've already collected has helped us to start planning for 2020," she said.
"We know we have some group work we'll be delivering in the schools in 2020 and some of those will be around healthy relationships."
The survey happens yearly to ensure information stays up to date, and the school can make their own referrals to The Albury Project team.
"We acknowledge their life journey can have difficulties at any point, and we're going to be here to support them," Ms Kerr said.
"We're building trust on a community scale, not an organisational one, and that's what we need for our young people."
Flip the focus
Darryl Ward knows it's a "long road back" from the point where a young person comes into contact with homelessness services.
"I could give you half a dozen cases where in the past a kid has made a social media mistake and that's led to a family break-down, and all of a sudden they're couch-surfing," he said.
"Through the survey and development of proactive responses, we might prevent three out of five of those.
"We won't even know the impact sometimes."
As principal of Albury High School for seven years, Mr Ward has seen different support programs run by various organisations come and go.
"We recognised the need to support kids better," he said.
"One of the big issues is kids go to a service, and tell their story, and then go to the next service and tell their story.
"This gives the capacity to see what their needs are in the school setting, bring the services to them, and organise what support they need."
Jenny Parrett, the head of James Fallon High, said each partner brought strengths and weaknesses to the project.
"In those initial meetings, there was this openness and sharing," she said.
"I don't think I've ever had that opportunity to fully understand what for example, Karina's role is in headspace.
"I think it's been one of the essential parts of this project, and committing to work together regardless of whatever funding comes our way."
Ms Parrett said this will enable longevity, because "if one person needs to step out of the room, the collaboration structure is there".
"There's a lot of things that contribute to the story of a young person if they reach a spot where they are homeless," she said.
"We're looking at those factors around that ... wrap-around support is our starting point.
"This is a genuine village to raise the child."
South of the border at Junction Support Services, a project officer has been appointed to bring together The Wodonga Project.
Professor Mackenzie is also supporting Junction and its partners and he is pushing the Victorian government to fund more sites.
"Wodonga is coming along really well," he said.
"What we're trying to do is work out how the Department of Education and Training, and Department of Health and Human Services can be engaged, or in NSW, the Department of Communities and Justice.
"They need to be cooperating in a way that they have not done yet."
Professor Mackenzie said communities all over the world were seeing value in their services stepping out of "silos" and working as one.
"It's great there's a movement to bring about change," he said.
"Yes Unlimited is a terrific agency and has really taken the lead in Albury."
Yes Unlimited chief executive Di Glover said she would have loved for there to be an 'Albury-Wodonga Project'.
"The difficulty being on the border is the two state governments made it more complex than we saw manageable at the time," she said.
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"We were thrilled to be able to support Wodonga to come together and will continue to support that process.
"In time, that [a collaboration between projects] could be amazing.
"I think the most exciting thing about the project is the opportunity to work at this starting point, rather than when young people come to our youth refuge."