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New youth crisis accommodation facility opens in Shepparton

(From left) Cr Anthony Brophy (Deputy Mayor), Cr Shane Sali (Mayor), Leah Farnham (Regional Manager), Rob Ellis (State Manager) and Captain Brad McIver (Head of Social Mission) at the opening of the new youth supported accommodation facility in Shepparton.

The launch of an innovative youth supported accommodation facility in Shepparton has heralded an exciting fresh chapter for The Salvation Army’s Northeast Victoria Youth Services.

Giving local young people hope and positivity for their future is the purpose-built facility that features 13-bed supported accommodation for young people aged 16 to 25 who are experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness. It is more than double the previous accommodation of six beds.

Captain Brad McIver, Head of Social Mission, addresses local community members at the official opening.

The Youth Accommodation Service was previously on the outskirts of town, on a huge block of land that was not accessible or suitable for most young people and not fit for purpose, with six beds servicing 31 young people. Moving into town and having a new facility now allows the service to offer crisis accommodation, casework and links to community services and The Salvation Army corps and services.

“The opening was a great success,” said Leah Farnham, Northeast Victoria Youth Services Regional Manager. “It went really well and was well received. We had lots of people look around.

“With floods, bushfires and COVID hitting the township in recent years, we had quite a bit of a pushback in our timeline, unfortunately. But we have such great funders from the Department of Health and Human Services and some philanthropic donations from the Day Foundation, which is great. So, that has allowed us to move up to 13 beds, and we’re looking at servicing 80 young people in this financial year and then 100 moving on and out into the next financial years.”

Central to its success is a pioneering model of care centred around psychologically informed environments.

Northeast Youth Services Regional Manager Leah Farnham and Rob Ellis, State Manager, discuss the new facility with local news TV station WIN.

Leah said they had moved into the model of care focused on a holistic approach for the young person, encapsulating safety plus a welcoming and bright environment that made people feel at home. It works on a trauma-informed practice lens, relationships and social spheres, and how you develop, deliver and evaluate a service.

“It helps us to look at the environment as a whole … staff, young people, social systems, the micro-macro levels, all of those different things,” she said. “It is about how we view the whole system as itself with therapeutic approaches that sit within it.”

Also key to the new youth supported accommodation is State Government funding that provides accommodation for up to eight weeks with the possibility of an extension if a young person needs to stay longer.

The Youth Accommodation Service program has also announced an exciting new family reconciliation pilot program they are running alongside the new accommodation, with one of the beds dedicated to family reconciliation. It is for young people experiencing interpersonal conflicts within the home, with a case manager working alongside the young person and family. If it is safe for the young person to go home, support systems are wrapped around for the family and the young person.

“It’s a super important part of the new model,” Leah said. “Just purely because what we have seen in the past is that if young people are experiencing that interpersonal conflict, it might be between siblings, it might be between mum and dad or the caregiver, or aunt or uncle or whatever the family situation looks like, they come into the homelessness sector.

“So, part of it is really about making sure they are not perpetrating the cycle of homelessness and that we’re getting them when we need to. Early intervention. It’s exciting.”

Charlotte Nicholson, a youth worker at Northeast Youth Services, was among staff who attended the opening.

Northeast Youth Services has held crisis accommodation in the northeast, particularly Shepparton, for 25-plus years.

When asked the reasons that lay behind why a young person may be placed into a homelessness service, Leah said the answer was complex.

“Adolescent family violence in the home is a big conversation at the moment and what it looks like,” she said.

“But it isn’t the be-all and end-all as to why young people are entering the homelessness sector. It is really hard to quantify and to put into words all the different myriad of things that young people are experiencing that might place them into the homelessness service.

“You are seeing lots of different young people entering the system. Every young person is so different, and they all have their individual circumstances, stories and journeys, that you just can’t quantify what that actually looks like for that young person, and if you did, you’d be doing their story an injustice.

“Yes, there is family violence. Yes, it is perpetrated by parents to young people, or by young people to parents. But there is significant intergenerational trauma, mental health concerns and social concerns. And we are even seeing an influx of young people where they have interpersonal skills, they have a job. They have family relationships that they can lean on. They have those natural resources. But they are still now entering the homelessness system like we haven’t seen before because they are just priced out of the market, there is no social housing.

“I think it’s getting harder and harder to quantify what is the picture of the young person that is entering the homeless system. Just purely because it’s so stretched and varied about what that young person might look like.”

Captain Brad McIver, Head of Social Mission, officially opens the new youth supported accommodation facility in Shepparton.

Moving forward, The Salvation Army is planning to expand its accommodation services sometime in the future to include transitional housing as the new 13-bed facility is classified as crisis housing.

Leah said having transitional housing proposals on the table was good news.

“They really need transitional housing, and there is no transitional housing. And so, we are really fortunate enough to be able to work in an organisation that supports us to be innovative and think outside the box.”


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