Traumatic events in a person’s life can put them on a pathway to homelessness.

Understanding the impact of childhood trauma is driving Centacare’s support of vulnerable young people in the north, which is explored in a new study.

The experiences of young people living in supported accommodation at Carlow Place have been researched by UniSA’s The Australian Alliance for Social Enterprise (TAASE), as part of a study into alternative care.

Commissioned by Centacare, the research examines how the service helps clients to discover their independence and build resilience, while providing them with a sense of safety and stability.

Located at Elizabeth, Carlow Place provides emergency and 24-hour supported accommodation for eight young people aged 15 to 18 years who are homeless, or at risk of homelessness.

TAASE Research Fellow Dr Jonathon Louth said accessibility and knowledge of Carlow Place was among the most significant issues identified by the young people he interviewed.

“All the residents spoke about how they felt very fortunate to have had a connection to or to have found the program,’’ he said.

Prior to Carlow, many of the residents moved from place to place, often staying with different family members or couch surfing. The research clearly identified that finding a comfortable and safe place that promoted routine and self-reliance was a recurring and positive theme among the residents.

“Where family may have placed demands on young people – often in very precarious scenarios – Carlow Place offers a scaffolded independence,’’ Dr Louth said.

Staff are there to help clients out with any issues they may have, and are respected and appreciated.

Dr Louth noted one client who said that supervision is about making sure “we are doing alright’’ and to “watch us pretty much grow, or watch us become more independent.’’

Routine was noted as important. The need for rules and responsibilities was similarly acknowledged, and supported independent learning.

Participants highlighted the requirement to cook their own meals on weekends as a source of pride. One client noted the feeling of accomplishment: “because you actually have to cook your own food. It brings up a whole: ‘ah, I can cook, I can teach myself to cook’.”

Dr Louth said the negative stereotypes surrounding youth homelessness, and how young people are sometimes viewed by society at large, was a source of frustration for many clients.

One resident who is currently finishing their Year 12 noted: “…being in this situation is like people expect you to do bad. Maybe like … lower their expectations of you.’’

TAASE and Centacare will launch the study later this year. Research findings will contribute to understandings of the experiences of children and young adults living in care, and will be used to provide insights that may assist community services to support young people to flourish.