This research identifies measures that could reduce youth homelessness and lead to improved outcomes for young people who experience homelessness. The findings are based on a community-level analysis of special homelessness services (SHS) data and sites of innovation in three states: South Australia, NSW and Victoria.

Key points:

  • Children and young people (aged 12–25 years) are one of the largest cohorts of users of homelessness services: in 2017–2018, there were 81,193 young parents and accompanying children (28%) and 43,200 young people presenting alone (16%).
  • Children and young people, as well as ‘people exiting institutions and care into homelessness’ are priority cohorts under the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement (NAHA; 2018), and this is carried over into most of the state and territory strategies and plans.
  • The redesign of the youth homelessness services system is best conceptualised at the community level, as the ‘system’ where interaction between young people and services—including schools—actually takes place.
  • Thinking about the ‘community as system’ means that small-area data analysis of need, trends and outcomes should be developed into community-level focussed planning of the ecosystem of supports required by vulnerable young people.
  • There is a strong case in theory—and from practical experimentation—for adopting a system reform agenda that makes the shift from a program-oriented approach to a place-based cross-sectoral ‘collective impact’ framework for support and service delivery for at-risk and homeless young people.
  • A systemic implementation of a place-based community approach to early intervention involving proactive identification of risk, a tiered practice framework, an extended workforce of youth and family workers, and school welfare/wellbeing staff working under a formal collaboration and within a strong data-driven outcomes framework will begin to reduce the flow of young people into homelessness.
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AHURI Final Report no.327