Homelessness and leaving care: the experience of young adults in Queensland and Victoria and implications for practice

Homelessness Drugs and alcohol Australia Queensland Victoria
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The purpose of this study is to contribute to the understanding of the post care experience of young people who leave care in terms of homelessness and risk of homelessness with specific reference to prevention of homelessness. The scoping study focuses on two states, namely Victoria and Queensland, and seeks to draw on the experiences of young adults who have recently left care to inform future directions in research, policy and practice.

This research first asks ‘What happens when young people leave state care?’ in respect of Victoria and Queensland and second ‘What are the service support implications of this?’ A number of methods were used to explore these questions including semi-structured interviews with 27 young adults aged 19-23 years who had been homeless or at risk of homelessness, and focus groups with young people and service providers. The interviews and focus groups gathered young people’s experiences of leaving care, what has assisted them, and what they think is needed in terms of support. Service provider perspectives and current leaving care provisions were also canvassed.

Leaving care services play a vital role in preventing homelessness for young people leaving care particularly for those who have a volatile in-care experience. Those who experience volatile in care experiences have variable experiences post care but can, with a combination of the development of their own networks and support services, gain the stability they need for the future. When young people received consistent transition from care support this was almost always found to be very useful, and a pathway to accessing a broader range of support.

This said there are a range of factors in the way leaving care is currently approached that may contribute to homelessness. The experience of transition planning was variable with many young people saying it either did not happen, was ceremonial, or only occurred with any quality following proactive efforts by the young person or an advocate. Whilst access to long term public housing was a desired goal, long term stable transitional housing or private rental was a sufficient platform for gaining a sense of control and stability in their living situation, as long as the permanent option was being pursued. Where young people have safe, long term and adequate housing, positive supportive adult relationships and/ or service support that bridge leaving care and extend into their twenties they are able to move towards lives they see as meaningful and positive. Currently access to transitional and public housing by young people in Victoria is patchy and in Queensland very limited.

Authors: Dr Phil Crane, Jatinder Kaur and Dr Judith Burton, from the QUT School of Public Health and Social Work, in partnership with the CREATE Foundation.

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