Bunbury youth escaping domestic abuse struggle to find a home

SOME of our youth are leaving abusive environments in the hope they will find safer, more secure shelter. 

But the reality isn’t so hopeful. 

The leading cause of youth homelessness in Bunbury stems from those escaping violent, abusive environments, according to St Vincent De Paul chief executive officer Mark Fitzpatrick.

The state coordinator for Youth Services West said homelessness impacted our community on many levels. 

For example, those without a stable, safe home were at higher risk of substance abuse and mental health problems.

The Australian National Council of Drugs has found one in eight deaths of Australians aged under 25 is now related to alcohol consumption and one in five hospitalisations of people under 25 is due to alcohol.

 “We are creating a generation of disability and disadvantage because of the lack of support," Mr Fitzpatrick said. 

“These young guys drink and use drugs to mask the pain and it’s all because of a simple family breakdown.”

The St John of God Horizon House Bunbury provides long-term accommodation and support for the homeless or those at risk of homelessness aged from 16 to 22.

State Coordinator for Youth Services West Penny Bridges said its five residents have access to education, training and employment so are able to develop the skills to achieve successful independent living.

Ms Bridges said those applying for Horizon House wanted to make a difference and contribute in the community.  

“A lot of society views the homeless as delinquents or that they have made a choice to be there,” Ms Bridges said. 

“But that is rarely the case.

“These young people are couch surfing because they have nowhere else to go and often abuse happens in these situations.”

There are now more than 9500 homeless people in Western Australia. Of those, more than 35 per cent are aged from 12 to 24 years old, according to Homelessness Australia.

BUNBURY’S community services leaders have underlined the connection between the strain on emergency support and homelessness. 

Investing in Our Youth Bunbury provides support programs for those with mental health and alcohol-related problems. 

Executive officer Carmen Gregg said services designed to support young people at risk of homelessness were frustrated with the lack of options available for low-cost accommodation. 

The strain on community emergency services has increased by 12 per cent in the past year.

Accordwest, which offers a range of crisis accommodation and support, has been forced to turn away people in desperate need, chief executive officer Neil Hamilton said.

Mr Hamilton said Accordwest provided steps toward sustainable housing with several transitional housing properties across Bunbury. 

But he said the demand for these services had increased more than 20 per cent in the past 12 months and it had become increasingly difficult to secure suitable affordable options.

RESIDENTS at Bunb-ury’s Horizon House shared their personal journeys and explained how the house had turned their life around. 

Eighteen-year-old Sarah was homeless, using drugs and putting herself in danger before she entered Horizon House Bunbury. 

She has found refuge at the house and in the last 18 months, has pursued an education pathway and found a passion for cooking. 

The house offers a three tier program which provides stable accommodation, counselling and life skills development, support coordinator Rachel Pittaway said.

Long-term resident Jack moved from one carer to another over the course of his childhood before he secured his place in Horizon House in 2013.

He has since been able to develop his love of building and fixing things while being given the guidance to pursue a career in woodwork.  

Jack said one of his favourite things to do was go on night walks to see the stars with the others residents. 

Every person’s journey has been different and many have come from living situations that were beyond challenging, Ms Pittaway said.  

“If you are constantly in survival mode how can you focus on long term goals?” she said. 

“Seeing the way these guys have grown over the short amount of time I have been here is so rewarding and it just goes to show what these kids are capable of, if given the right support.”

Resident Aaron has now found employment in the music industry. 

He was living in an unsupportive environment when he sought help from the education support centre at school. 

Ms Pittaway said it was vital that children felt nurtured and supported especially in their teen years.

“If you are not mentored and given resources, then how are you supposed to seek help,” she said. 

“All of the residents are responsible for keeping the house clean and cooking meals.

“They also pay a small board, and this is all part of our program to prepare them for independent living.”

Horizon House’s long-term goal is to increase the number of people they house each year by 300 per cent. 

*Names have been changed for protective reasons