Students who have lost part-time employment amid the COVID-19 lockdown are driving increasing demand for youth homelessness support across metropolitan and regional South Australia.
In the past month, calls to the Youth Homelessness Gateway have spiked by 30 per cent as students grapple with financial debt and job loss.
The flow-on effect is being felt by organisations such as Centacare, which supports young people aged 15-25 who are homeless, or at risk of homelessness, through the Outer North Youth Homelessness Service.
“The 30 per cent increase equates to just under 4000 calls for assistance,’’ said Megan Welsh, Executive Manager of Youth and Community Services.
At Elizabeth-based ONYHS, intake has soared, as teams work frantically to find young people a safe place to stay. Four case managers are currently supporting more than 100 clients and their children.
Hundreds more young people are accommodated in motels looking for a permanent place to live.
“The problem now is that there is a bottleneck because people aren’t moving through crisis accommodation as fast as they usually would,” Megan said.
“They’re also staying in transitional housing for longer because we don’t have the usual exit points due to COVID-19.’’
Megan said some clients had arrived from interstate to be with family only to have those relationships break down, putting them at risk.
“We had a young couple from Victoria that came at the start to be with their family but then the family said they had to go, so they had to do their 14-day isolation in a motel.
“A young person under guardianship who was living interstate came to Adelaide but she is now in a motel too after falling out with a relative. It’s the anecdotal stories like that which we’re now starting to see as the lockdown continues.’’
Megan said COVID-19 had highlighted the nation’s silent homeless – people couch surfing who have a place to stay temporarily but no stability.
“For a lot of people, their housing has simply just broken down,’’ Megan said.
“They’ve been staying with family and friends and because of COVID-19, they’ve been told to go. Usually their housing would be tentative but they’d have somewhere to go.’’
ONYHS Manager Tracy Ingram (pictured) said COVID-19 had brought a lack of affordable housing nationwide back into focus.
“All of the people who contact us need somewhere to live and there is not enough housing in SA,’’ she said.
However, community spirit was strong, with organisations such as Lutheran Community Care coming to the fore to support the ONYHS.
“People’s live are complex and each person comes with a story that has elements of strength but has a high amount of trauma attached,’’ Tracy said.
“We find the strengths of the people coming to us as it’s important that they know they have the ability to do something for themselves with some help along the way.’’