When you’re doing it tough, a bit of help can mean a lot. If you have time on your hands and would like to pitch in to support young people living homeless, consider becoming a volunteer. Our Outer North Youth Homelessness Service would love to hear from you.
“The common reason people choose to volunteer is for a sense of purpose and to make a difference.’’
– Vicki Giacomin, Volunteer Coordinator

Centacare is supported by 80 volunteers who go above and beyond in roles across our organisation.

For the first time, the Outer North Youth Homelessness Service (ONYHS) is looking for volunteers to assist with small administration tasks.

Giving just a little bit of your time could make a big difference to young people who are experiencing or are at risk of homelessness.

Often they just need help to complete an online form or rental application. Perhaps they lack the confidence to ring a community service provider, or they don’t know how to read a bus timetable.

If you enjoy working with people and are interested in volunteering your time, we would love to hear from you. Every little bit helps! Find out more about the role here: https://www.volunteer.com.au/volunteering/opportunity/137703/admin-volunteer


When it comes to understanding homelessness, do we need to go back to class? We asked our Outer North Youth Homelessness Service if homelessness needs a bigger profile in schools.


“A lot of young people have nowhere to go but no idea they are homeless’’
– Felicity McKeever, Case Manager, Outer North Youth Homelessness Service


Disengaging with school is one of the biggest indicators of youth homelessness. Sometimes this sign is missed because of the assumption that students have family support and a safe place to go when the bell rings.

At the same time, the students themselves might not identify as being homeless because they do not understand their predicament or the challenges they are facing. Therefore they don’t reach out for help.

Well-informed school communities can play a crucial role in connecting vulnerable young people to specialist supports.

Education can also go a long way to shaping our understanding of homelessness and how to prevent it, while challenging the stereotypes and stigma that surround it.

We have seen what community awareness campaigns and respectful education programs in schools have done to bring domestic violence out of the shadows in recent years. What if the same applied to homelessness?

If students, parents and teachers knew more sooner, would the impact later be less?

Felicity McKeever is a Case Manager with Outer North Youth Homelessness Service (ONYHS) and says young people and the adults around them often do not understand the severity of their situation.

“A lot of young people have nowhere to go but no idea they are homeless,’’ Felicity says.

“If they had a greater understanding of what homelessness looks like from a young age, and where to go to get help, they might reach out for support sooner – before they’re in crisis.

“Maybe you are a parent and your child’s friend is sleeping on your couch. Do you ask why they can’t go home?

“If you are a teacher and notice a student is often absent from school, do you follow it up with the family?

“If children knew more about homelessness sooner, before they’re at an age when judgement sets in, it might change the way we all look at homelessness later.’’

Homelessness is not the result of personal failings. The main causes of homelessness are poverty, unaffordable rents, and family violence. Transitional housing helps vulnerable young people to stabilise their circumstances so that they can progress to long-term living arrangements. But are their 18-month tenures long enough?
“You can’t put a time frame on outcomes’’
– Tracy Ingram


Right now, nearly 200,000 Australians are waiting for public and community housing.

The longer they wait, the greater their risk of homelessness.

For young South Australians living in transitional housing with 18-month tenures, the clock is ticking.

When their time is up, they are required to move out of supported accommodation into long-term living arrangements.

While this keeps people cycling in and out of properties, it also poses difficulties when young people are not yet able to live independently of specialist support.

This may be due to unresolved crisis and other complexities – often linked to childhood trauma – such as poor mental health, drug and alcohol issues, family breakdown, and accrued debt.

These challenges are exacerbated by the state’s high unemployment, a shortage of affordable housing, and the existing rate of benefit payments.

Seen as a stepping stone from crisis accommodation or other supported living arrangements, transitional housing helps vulnerable young people to stabilise their circumstances and build their capacity to progress to longer-term living, in the private or public housing sectors.

While some move quickly through the system, others need more time to achieve a maximum degree of self-reliance and independence.

Extending transitional housing tenures would allow for this.

Sometimes another few months or one more year of stability, support and care might be all the young people need to move forward.

While the ONYHS has the capacity to work with clients post-transitional housing, if they don’t have a stable place to go, the young people are unlikely to reconnect with Centacare.

The current 18-month tenure does not allow for the transience of young people who might move through the system – and in and out of supported housing – a dozen times before they are ready to settle down and start addressing the issues causing instability in their lives.

We need to stop the clock!

Homelessness Week is an annual opportunity to bring the issue of homelessness into the spotlight. We called a think tank with our Outer North Youth Homelessness Service to generate new ideas about what we can do to address homelessness. Each day this week we will be dissecting their thoughts. First up, breaking the age barrier.

“Age is a massive barrier’’

 Tina Breen, Senior Social Worker


Two in every five people counted as homeless are under the age of 25. Homelessness in people aged 12-24 has increased by 9.9 per cent in five years. That’s 26,683 young people without homes.

Often they can be too old, or too young, to access crucial support because they do not meet the chronological age criteria of specialist homelessness support services.

This poses problems if their age is not a true reflection of their developmental stage and their capacity to make positive change.

In addition, a person’s age does not reflect lived experience and the impact of childhood trauma on wellbeing and skill development.

This means vulnerable young people can age out of programs and services, even though they need many more years of support.

Tina Breen is Senior Social Worker at Centacare’s Outer North Youth Homelessness Service and says age should not be the only determinant for accessing support.

“Age is often a barrier. It would be useful if we could assess young people on development stage or capacity or level of trauma, not just their age.

“Systems are very good at saying they accept trauma and they understand the impact it has on young lives, yet those same systems are not being adjusted to allow them to respond to that impact.’’

Janette Booth-Remmers has spent the past eight-and-a-half years sowing seeds of hope in homes across the Adelaide Hills and Fleurieu Peninsula.

Every week she has knocked on the same doors looking for signs of growth – small wins that show Janette a family is moving forward.

Today the Family Intervention Worker retires with hope of her own as a long career dedicated to making things better for others comes to a close.

“I hope I’ve always shown them that there can be something different,’’ Janette says.

“Even if that’s just been making sure a child has a bed instead of a mattress on the floor; giving them a new quilt and a pillow to say `this is how it can be’.

“It’s those images that I hope will stay in their mind so they always have a glimpse of another possibility.’’

After a brief stint as an accountant, Janette swapped numbers for people, first teaching in a technical school before studying special education and working overseas.

Upon her return to Australia, Janette took up social work and for many years helped advocate for families of children with disabilities, and for greater inclusivity within organisations and schools.

Janette found Centacare in late 2010. Initially she worked with Aboriginal families before joining the Targeted Intervention Service three months later, in 2011.

The multidisciplinary service supports vulnerable families in which early child wellbeing or safety risk factors have been identified. The aim is to build resilience, parenting capacity and connection to community while addressing risk factors, and the impact on parents of their own childhood experiences.

“Each family is a new story but they are all marginalised,’’ Janette says.

“They’re sitting on the edge for various reasons. The common threads are drug and alcohol issues, unemployment and childhood trauma, but the way that is all operating for each family is different.

“Over time, there are families that stay in your mind, sometimes for no other reason than they just have so much to deal with. How do they even get up in the morning? How do they survive one day with that much on their shoulders?

“Then there are the families you meet who are right at that point to take the help and make a change. ’’

Like the mother she worked with from one Christmas to the next who, with Janette’s help, was able to see past her own sadness and make festive memories for her little girl.

Or the mum-of-two who has faced unfathomable challenges for nearly three decades yet still finds reasons to fight on in the belief things will one day get better.

“She is really good at helping me understand what it feels like for her and the children, and that has been a great lesson,’’ Janette says.

“What I’ve learnt from all the families is that we all have to be respectful of other people’s ways of life.

“Yes, we are trying to keep the children safe and show each family a way of reaching their potential, but at the same time there needs to be respect for the way things are for them.

“It’s difficult because our general society will not make leeway; we will apply the same rules to those families, and the same expectations, and in doing that we are really asking the impossible.’’

Janette says she will miss the relationships she’s forged with families, and the tiny faces who greet her at the door who are “exposed to so much they don’t understand’’.

“I‘ve learnt a lot and experienced a lot and I’ve done my piece. There are other people coming through that will offer things to these families that will be different to what I offer, but I don’t think you can go on forever. Partly that’s because of the stories that you hear.’’

Family dispute resolution is sometimes overlooked by separating couples who opt to take their disputes to court.

But Centacare is urging them to think again as it grows its Family Dispute Resolution Service in regional SA.

Currently a Centacare practitioner visits the Limestone Coast once a month, however the service will now be offered fortnightly at Centacare South East in Mount Gambier after the Australian Government extended funding for a further five years.

A post-separation parenting course will also be introduced to support parents to better manage their co-parenting and to assist with ways to communicate more respectfully with one another in the best interests of their children.

Ceri Bruce is a Senior Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner at Centacare and said mediation is an often quicker, and more collaborative and affordable option for resolving parenting and property disputes.

“People think that because it is not legally binding it’s a waste of time, but we are here to try and save parents the headache and cost of going to court,’’ she said.

“Our role is not to find out who’s right and wrong. It is to help parents think about what’s best for their children and support them to make child-focused parenting plans, as well as just and equitable property agreements.’’

The Government’s decision to increase funding reflects the significant role specialist mediators play in helping families to manage change, Ceri said.

“You can come and gather all the information you need to understand what your property and asset pool is to talk about options which saves a large expense before having to engage lawyers.’’

Child consultations are available to ensure the voice of the child is heard in a safe supported manner in parenting arrangements.

In family law cases, separating couples must make a genuine effort to resolve disagreements through dispute resolution services before they can apply to the courts for parenting and financial orders.

The Family Law Court will require parents to attempt mediation before hearing an application for a parenting order. When mediation is unsuccessful a certificate from an accredited family dispute practitioner is available to be filed with the application.

Research shows more people who attend mediation are happier with the outcome than those who elect to go to court.

Ceri said family dispute resolution encourages cooperation between parents and is a less public way of resolving their disputes.

For more information about Centacare’s Family Dispute Resolution Service, please phone 8215 6700 or the South East office on 8303 6630. 

A world of colourful creatures greets visitors upon arrival at the new office of the Guardian for Children and Young People in Gawler Place.

From a giant parrot to a castle guarded by a puffer fish with elephant legs, and a dragon-winged pony under a rainbow, the painted murals lining the entrance hall make a bold statement.

On show at the office’s official opening last week, the murals were created by young people in foster care and from the Adelaide Youth Training Centre, in partnership with artist Fran Callen.

Fran has worked as a community artist since 1995 in metropolitan, rural and remote areas of Australia, Kathamandu, New Dehli, Edinburgh, Florence and Singapore.

The artworks showcase the creativity of the young people who painted bits of each mural panel over many months and workshops at the office.

Three children supported by Centacare’s Foster Care program took part in the project.

“The murals are a fabulous, expressive and explicit way for a child’s inner world to shine through for all to see,’’ said Amalie Mannik, Manager.

Guardian Penny Wright complimented the young artists on their work before officially opening the office with the help of Child Protection Minister Rachel Sanderson.

Financial advocacy is helping alter the life course of vulnerable families in a state-first at Centacare.

Financial advocate Jacki Whittington has joined the multidisciplinary Targeted Intervention Service (TIS) on the frontline of child protection.

The unique service model pairs Jacki with families in which financial stress is a major contributing factor to placing child safety and wellbeing at risk.

Working in partnership with a senior practitioner, clinical nurse, and case manager, the financial advocate provides in-home, trauma-informed support to families facing complex challenges, such as intergenerational poverty, financial abuse and rising debt.

A large part of Jacki’s role is to help caregivers to understand their psychological relationship with money – and why they make certain choices that contribute to their financial hardship.

For example, overspending on and hoarding food because of their own experience of childhood neglect.

“You cannot underestimate how much people who have walked a life of trauma, abandonment and deprivation, are at the mercy of government departments and the incomes they receive,’’ Jacki said.

“The over-compensating for children’s birthdays as part of their own sadness; The binging when they get paid because they just want to feel normal; The self-harm that follows when they’re left with nothing.

“The choices they make around finances are just another reactive behaviour, except, with money, it’s make or break.’’

Jacki has been awarded an Energy Australia scholarship to undertake a Diploma of Financial Counselling which will allow her to increase the level of support available to families.

“You can’t make someone change just by saying `this is what you need to do’ because their relationship with money is not the same; you need the context behind their decisions,’’ she said. “This is their walk.’’

Through TIS, familes are empowered to identify and `awaken’ their strengths in order to build financial literacy and competency. In addition, they are supported to develop tools to track and achieve financial goals.

Currently, Jacki is working with 12 families within TIS which supported 150 clients in 2017/18.

Recently she started a weekly financial support group for young women engaged with Centacare’s Young Family Support Program at Malvern Place. The service provides support and accommodation for young pregnant or parenting women who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

TIS Manager Michelle Warner said the introduction of financial advocacy had closed a gap in accessible financial counselling for vulnerable and socially isolated families.

“I remember one family where there were six attempts to support them to a community-based financial counsellor,’’ Michelle said.

“Even if they do get to there, it’s an hour-long appointment talking about what’s in front of them – not why they got here or how this has happened.

“We are learning that, just like with families who will share with nurses things that they might not share with case managers, the permission of this role has enabled families to really focus on income and expenditure and explore the why.’’

Centacare will soon replicate the model across Reunification Services.

Case Study

A young family is evicted from their home due to unpaid rent.

They move into a relative’s house but continue to overspend which places significant stress on their relationship.

The children display challenging behaviours at school and appear to have no food.

The mother feels shame.

Jacki begins working in partnership with the family.

She recognises that the mother is spending her entire fortnightly income on groceries.

Jacki supports the mother to understand why she is hoarding food.

This is traced to the mother’s own experience of neglect as a child.

Her way of feeling safe as an adult is to buy more food than the family needs.

Jacki works with the mother to identify her strengths.

Together they develop some simple tools to shift the mother’s relationship from hoarding food to buying less and saving more.

Gradually the mother begins to achieve small financial goals.

She experiences the pride of being able to pay outstanding debts.

This encourages her to keep saving and, in less than two months, she is able to reduce her food bill by more than half.

By understanding her relationship with money, the mother is empowered to make positive change.


Relationships can buckle under the strain of life challenges.

Change, grief and loss, illness, separation, stress, trauma, and the daily juggle of personal and professional responsibilities can take a heavy toll on adults, children and young people.

Our experienced and qualified counsellors can help you cope with relationship difficulties, and support you to move on with a sense of purpose, hope and confidence.

Our service is confidential, empathetic and non-judgemental. Our fee is based on household income but can be negotiated if there is financial hardship.

Counselling is offered at a number of locations during weekday business hours. In addition, Centacare offers an evening service at our Wakefield St office on Wednesday and Thursday nights. Counsellors see individuals, couples and children.

For more information, phone our Family Relationship Counselling team on 8215 6700 or book direct at the following locations:

  • Adelaide – 45 Wakefield St, Adelaide. Ph 8215 6700
  • Gilles Plains – Wandana Community Centre, 14 Blacks Rd. Ph 8261 8124
  • Elizabeth – 34 Yorktown Rd. Ph 8252 2311
  • Aldinga – How Rd. Ph 8215 6300
  • Murray Bridge – Unit 6/2 Sturt Reserve Rd. Ph 8215 6320
  • Mount Gambier – 13 Penola Rd. Ph 8724 0500


Eric Cruz is on a mission to change the face of men’s health – and he wants you to join him.

Through his men’s lifestyle platform MANABOUTADL, Eric uses digital storytelling and social events to tackle stigma around mental health and wellbeing, and to boost civic pride.

Ahead of Men’s Health Week (MHW), June 10-16, Eric is imploring men and women to “check their engines’’, school up on preventable health problems, and reach out to one another.

“One of the biggest contributors to men’s mental health is social isolation,’’ said Eric, a Foster Care Support Worker at Centacare.

“There’s also the stigma that guys shouldn’t talk about their emotions.

“We want to be the change and let men know it’s ok to talk. Let’s get the conversation started fellas!’’

Men experience worse long-term health than women and die on average six years earlier. Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show deaths from suicide occur among males at a rate three times greater than that for females.

From Monday, MANABOUTADL will run an awareness campaign to highlight some of the biggest health issues and preventable problems faced by men to encourage fathers, brothers and friends to support one another, said Eric.

These key messages will be reinforced on Tuesday at Centacare’s MHW launch at Seaton which will raise funds for the Movember Foundation.

“Men don’t usually like to check their engines and attend GP appointments, so we will be highlighting the various health concerns that affect men such as prostate cancer and suicide,’’ Eric said.

“We want to enable our staff to be aware of the various health issues and to be hyperaware of the signs and symptoms when liaising with clients.

“It’s also a good reason to get together and celebrate the men in the organisation – and have a reason to be together!’’

Simple acts such as spending time with people who make you feel good, checking up on your mates and being an empathetic ear could make a world of difference, said Eric, who has supported friends and family through mental health challenges.


Meeting the Challenge

Centacare Catholic Family Services is a Catholic welfare organisation delivering a range of services across the Catholic Archdiocese of Adelaide.

Client Services

45 Wakefield Street Adelaide SA 5000
T 08 8215 6700 | F 08 8232 8920
E enquiries@centacare.org.au

Opening Hours

Monday – Tuesday | 9am – 5pm
Wednesday – Thursday | 9am – 9pm
Friday | 9am – 5pm

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