A look behind the front doors of Launceston's youth supported housing facility Thyne House

INSIDE: Thyne House residents Des Dusautoy and Saira Tawhiti have gained independence at the Anglicare-run facility. The pair are just some faces of the city's youth homelessness. Pictures: Paul Scambler

INSIDE: Thyne House residents Des Dusautoy and Saira Tawhiti have gained independence at the Anglicare-run facility. The pair are just some faces of the city's youth homelessness. Pictures: Paul Scambler

A life on the street was the reality for Launceston young people Des Dusautoy and Saira Tawhiti after relationships with their respective families broke down.

The pair were faced with the prospect of having nowhere to go, when home became an unsafe environment.

Young people aged 15-25 make up about a quarter of all people who are homeless or who are couch surfing around their network of friends.

In Tasmania there are about 1500 people who are considered homeless, which means there are about 375 young people in that age bracket across the state who have no fixed address.

Youth homelessness was a feature of National Youth Week, with many participating organisations and schools highlighting the issue with the youth of the region.

THE FACES

Des and Saira are two of 30 young people who have accessed Launceston’s youth supported accommodation facility Thyne House, located in the city.

Miss Tawhiti has been at the facility for only three months.

“My mum and I were not getting along, it was a very stressful situation. From a very young age my schooling has been up and down. It’s very difficult and it’s had a big impact but I’m slowly getting there,” she said.

She said since moving into Thyne House her relationship with her mother has been repaired and she has begun to feel truly independent.

“I’ve shown some independence, by moving here; it’s something my mum liked. It’s helped a lot actually.”

TRANSITION: Des Dusautoy has been at Thyne House for three years and is looking to transition to her own home in the near future.

TRANSITION: Des Dusautoy has been at Thyne House for three years and is looking to transition to her own home in the near future.

Miss Dusautoy has been at Thyne House for three years and is looking to transition into employment and her own home in the near future.

“I moved out of home with one of my other family members and it ended badly. It put me in a tricky situation. But I got onto a social worker at school who helped me to apply here,” she said.

Both young women said they weren’t aware of the service, if it wasn’t for local social workers.

“I didn’t even know there was a shelter, I thought I’d end up sleeping on the streets,” Miss Tawhiti said.

Both women said youth homeless was a big issue among their social networks and was something they saw among their friends frequently.

“I always have friends asking for the number and asking for information and I’m able to give it to them if they need it,” Miss Tawhiti said.

“I am doing a course with young people so I see it there; I do see it a lot of times. There are 30 units here and I’m pretty sure they are all filled. They get filled pretty quickly,” Miss Dusautoy said.

BREAK: Saira Tawhiti has been able to reconnect with her mother and her family after the support services provided to her by Thyne House.

BREAK: Saira Tawhiti has been able to reconnect with her mother and her family after the support services provided to her by Thyne House.

Miss Dusautoy said more could be done for awareness among young people to increase the among of people who know about the facilities available and reduce the amount of people on the street.

Thyne House is located in Launceston and has 30 independent living units for young people aged 15-25.

The facility is run by Anglicare and young people can apply for a unit. An average time tenants stay at Thyne House is 14 months but tenants can move in when they are 15 and stay until they are 25 if they want to.

Tenants have their own apartment but also have access to communal facilities such as a laundry, gym, computer room, kitchen, as well as social spaces, courtyard space, a garden and car parking.

Both Miss Dusautoy and Miss Tawhiti said one of the challenges to transitioning from Thyne House was finding employment.

One of the main issues is finding a job that will suit their different education and study requirements.

THE ISSUE

Homelessness is a national issue with numbers increasing rapidly across the country. 

In Tasmania there are about 1500 people across the state who are defined as homeless, or who have no fixed address. Young people aged 15-25 make up a quarter of that overall figure.

Support services in Tasmania are provided by organisations such as Anglicare, St Vincent de Paul, Shelter Tasmania and the Salvation Army, among others.

Anglicare offers housing support for people through its Housing Connect arm.

Housing Connect support residential services area manager Louise Bieser said family breakdown was a major contributing factor that lead to young people ending up on the street or in shelters.

She said “family breakdown” could be attributed to many factors, including relationship degradation, domestic violence, drug and alcohol issues or even more simply, finance trouble.

“They move through friends, it’s rarely family, but they can only couch surf for so long...that social capital doesn’t last very long,” she said.

In addition, being a young person can also create other barriers, in terms of getting a job of applying for a rental property.

North-West Housing Connect area manager Liz Leslie said bias and discrimination towards young people was prominent among real estate and home owners.

“Renting to young people is a big issue. Real estate agents are unwilling,” she said.

“They end up gravitating towards the private rental and sometimes what you find with those is that the properties are substandard.”

State manager Belinda Jones said there was not enough affordable housing for young people to access, which meant they often ended up on the street or in supported housing such as Thyne House.

“When we have low vacancy rates and a whole range people who are looking for rentals, you are going to gravitate towards the people who are more appealing and young people just aren’t appealing,” she said.

“But it’s hard to get rental references if no one will let you rent.”

Ms Bieser said the stress of couch-surfing, or being on the streets, was an added impact for young people looking to apply for rental properties.

“When you are applying for properties and you look like someone who has slept on a couch it doesn’t give a good impression.”

Ms Bieser said Thyne House was not about giving young people a home but to provide them with a safe space they could go to in the event they had difficulties at home they couldn’t deal with.

“It’s about stabilising them and getting them involved in education, employment and training, so they can become independent,” she said.

Support workers at Thyne House often provide quasi-parental roles for the young people living there, to provide them with support for their health and for life-skills such as budgeting and applying for jobs.

The support on site includes weekly classes that help the young tenants to gain the skills they need to transition to independent life.

“The support is mostly around health, their physical and mental health, because many young people don’t have regular health care of any type,” Ms Leslie said.

“The break [away from home and family] has meant that some of the tenants have been able to reconnect.”

“It might not mean they can move back in but they can repair that relationship.”

Anglicare has welcomed steps taken by the state government to address homelessness in the state as well as measures specifically for young people.

THE RESPONSE

The state government is working through its affordable housing strategy, which is aimed at addressing the availability and affordability of low-level housing in the state.

Youth Homelessness Day Matters, held in April, provided the launchpad for the state government to announce new initiatives aimed at addressing youth homelessness in the state.

“The most important thing we can do to address youth homeless is to work with our young people.” Human Services Minister Jacquie Petrusma said.

Human Services Minister Jacquie Petrusma

Human Services Minister Jacquie Petrusma

In the North,  Thyne House will see an extra eight units built at the property in Launceston to ease some of the demand and $925,000 will be spent to develop 11 spaces at Newnham House.

In addition, the state government will spend $7.5 million to build a similar facility in Devonport on the state’s North-West and spend $14.2 million to provide homes for up to 46 young people at Trinity Hill in Hobart.

Other initiatives include $1.7 million to construct a Youth At Risk centre at Moonah, $300,000 for the Youth Castles project and $10,000 to support the youth head leases program to support vulnerable or homeless youth to live independently with or without the support of Housing Connect.

The youth head leases program will encourage people with cash incentives to lease their properties to young people with our without the support of Anglicare’s Housing Connect.

“Considerable investment has gone into providing accommodation for young people who are homeless or at risk of being homeless and more is to come,” Ms Petrusma said.

The Youth Castles program has also been given a boost and, if it continues to be successful, Ms Petrusma said it could develop further.

She said there was definitely a demand for the backyard units, with only five in the state.

The developments will be funded under the $73.5 million Affordable Housing Action Plan.

The plan includes the development of new beds and the establishment or extension of support services.

Ms Petrusma said the strategy would deliver affordable housing options for 1600 Tasmanian households, including 900 additional homes for those in need.

Youth Homelessness Day Matters was held on April 5 and National Youth Week was held from March 31 until April 9.

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