How would you feel if you were consistently told you were stupid but didn’t have the means to attend school? Reconnecting at-risk young people to education is crucial, says Tracy Ingram, Manager of Centacare’s Outer North Youth Homelessness Services.


A career on the frontline of youth homelessness has taught Tracy Ingram how education can change a life.

“When I first started, I didn’t understand the importance of education, even though I had a good education myself,’’ says Tracy. “I didn’t’ think it was crucial for a young person.

“But after years of seeing the disadvantage because a person can’t read or write, or they’ve been told they are stupid and they think they’re stupid,  it’s crucial to anyone – especially young people who have been doing it tough.’’

Manager of Centacare’s Outer North Youth Homelessness Service, Tracy (pictured) is passionate about giving young people access to flexible learning options – in and out of the classroom.

At Carlow Place, clients are supported to maintain connection to education, training and employment.

This support includes subsidising uniforms costs, help with public transport, and the provision of packed lunches.

In addition, workers advocate for clients experiencing challenges effecting their ability to attend school, such as accumulated debt from school fees and mental health issues.

Through the Reconnect mental health service, Centacare provides outreach and early intervention support to young people aged 12-18 years and their families, where there is a risk of homelessness and emerging mental health concerns for the young person.

“Learning is for life, and we need to make sure it’s varied and different than the classroom because life doesn’t happen in a classroom,’’ Tracy says.

“Education for me is really important, but making sure we can help young people learn in different ways.’’

Homelessness Week is an annual week coordinated by Homelessness Australia to raise awareness of people experiencing homelessness, the issues they face and the action needed to achieve enduring solutions.