Unaccompanied 12 to 15-year olds experiencing homelessness are an extremely vulnerable group who have traditionally had few service options for support in New South Wales. The Homeless Youth Assistance Program (HYAP), a $54 million, six-year initiative from the Department of Communities and Justice (NSW), aims to reunify children and young people with their families and broader support networks, or enable this group to transition to longer-term supported accommodation.
An evaluation consortium used a hybrid effectiveness-implementation evaluation design to examine the effectiveness of the HYAP model. Extensive consultation from a range of sources was undertaken and, for the first-time, administrative data from the homeless and child protection sectors was linked.
Researchers found that while HYAP was designed as an early intervention service to prevent homelessness, the group who sought the most help from the program were highly vulnerable children and young people who had already had contact with the child protection system. NGOs adapted HYAP where possible to meet the diverse (and often complex) needs of this group but were often limited by a lack of appropriate services in their area. This meant that the help children and young people received was driven more by the availability of local services rather than the problem for which they had sought support.