Homeless youth charity can't meet demand

Kids Under Cover has received over 1000 requests to supply backyard studios in the past 18 months.
Kids Under Cover has received over 1000 requests to supply backyard studios in the past 18 months.

Until last year, Kelly's family of seven was crammed into a four-bedroom government home in Geelong.

With five of them diagnosed with ADHD, and anxiety and other mental health issues at play, it was no picnic. Especially during lockdown.

With everyone on top of each other, there were "really high levels of anxiety, anger and aggression", Kelly says.

"There was a lot of yelling."

Then Kids Under Cover stepped in. The youth charity, which specialises in delivering a combination of accommodation and learning scholarships, provided them with a two-bedroom back yard studio.

Kelly's oldest, a 15-year-old boy and a 12-year-old girl, moved into the flat and thankfully, now have their own space in which to study away from the younger kids and all the tension and stress.

The studio has meant a much calmer main house too, Kelly says.

"The difference since having it has been amazing. It has saved this whole family."

Before they received the studio, Kelly's brood was literally at breaking point, with her son contemplating moving out.

With his own digs, he's instead matured, become more independent and developed skills for coping.

Countless others, though, aren't as fortunate.

Data gathered from some of Australia's leading community services organisations reveals a growing number of young people in the regions on the brink of homelessness.

Almost without exception, organisations like Anglicare, the Salvation Army and Berry Street expect the outlook for 12- to 25-year-olds already on the margins to seriously deteriorate over the next six months.

Two thirds agree that a shortage of reasonable housing options and an increase in overcrowded homes are key factors in determining the future of Australia's vulnerable young.

In many cases, they'll have no option but to resort to temporary answers like caravans and motels or couch surfing.

Kids Under Cover CEO Jo Swift says she's not surprised by the forecast.

"In the last 18 months we have received more than 1000 enquiries for our studios, from CSOs, young people and their families," she said.

"That's more than a 300 per cent increase in the demand we saw in the previous 18 months, before COVID."

Kids Under Cover has managed to install 179 studios in the past two years but has unfortunately been forced to put the program on hold because it can't keep up.

"It has been incredibly difficult to have to turn families away, when it is clear the need is there," Ms Swift said.

"Everyone deserves a stable and secure space to call home."

Life for her family before their studio was a punish, Kelly says.

"It's had a positive impact on the entire family. The kids are more settled, everyone is more settled."

Australian Associated Press