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.’’