Victorian homeless youth epidemic

Jodie Brown, aged 40, has been homeless for the last two decades. Picture: Conor Ross

By Conor Ross

Most young people leaving home have a parental safety net to fall back on.

For many youths in state care this isn’t an option as many are fleeing abusive homes or don’t have a family.

Jodie Brown lost her parents in a car crash when she was two years old and is one of many who have felt abandoned as they reached legal adulthood.

“On my 18th birthday, I was sleeping on the streets”, Ms Brown said, who has been homeless since leaving state care more than two decades ago.

“When I turned 18 they kicked me out with just the clothes on my back.”

About 400 youths will leave state care this year in Victoria, almost 200 of them will become homeless within the year.

Ms Brown left state care in 1994 and more than 20 years later the Department of Human Services is still not providing adequate programs.

Monash University social work Associate Professor Phillip Mendes said: “Young people leaving state out-of-home care are one of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged groups in society.”

In his research on care-leavers, Assoc Professor Mendes said there was an increased risk of falling into substance abuse and small chance of finding stable employment or education.

CHP spokesman Ian Gough said the proposal was aiming “to play the role that family plays for many young people when they leave home”.

It also seeks to protect young adults from the dangers of becoming a rough sleeper such as Ms Brown, who says she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder caused by traumatic experiences on the street.