Homelessness Week is a national week to raise awareness of people experiencing homelessness, the issues they face, and the action needed to end homelessness not just manage it.
On Friday, 5 August 2022 both the Western Australian Alliance to End Homelessness (WAAEH) and the Youth Affairs Council of Western Australia (YACWA) provided a youth sector update by hearing about the Anchor Communities Initiative (ACI) which is run by A Way Home in Washington.
The Project Director of ACI is Ashley Barnes-Cocke, Ed. M, (they/them), and was our keynote speaker.
In providing some background to the landscape in Washington Ashley outlined the reasons why they are uniquely positioned to be “championing youth homelessness in particular as a cause, separate and distinct from other populations”.
“We have a state-level Office of Homelessness Youth that formed in 2015 along with a number of youth-focussed organisations, including one that specifically … organises foster youth and young people with lived experience of homelessness to advocate at the state-level for system changes.”
Having many advocacy groups has created a ripe ground in Washington, and when A Way Home Washington - established in 2016 - formed it was out of a need to lead a new strategy that brings together an effort to learn on the ground what it takes to really end youth homelessness in the community.
“There was a need to partner with the Office of Homelessness Youth,” Ashley said. “There was this new office and we needed to have a public–private partnership to be able to amplify and test things that the state cannot test immediately on its own but to be able to work together for the organisation to be able to nimbly work with communities on the ground and leverage those learnings into system change.
“Our vision is we want every young people to be able to access services they need and want quickly without them leaving their home community and to see them stably housed as a result.”
Anchor Communities Initiative
The ACI is the flagship program at A Way Home Washington. It uses a By-Name List to track and drive evidence-based improvements to help reduce rough sleeping and chronic homelessness.
By using the By-Name list Ashely says they can get “closer and closer to being what young people actually need”. “We put special emphasis on centering young people with lived experience in decision making especially because when you look at the data it can tell you what is happening, but young people can tell you why it is happening.
“We also centre an emphasis on ending disproportionality for youth of colour, LGBQ and trans and non-binary young people, we don’t think our work is done until all populations of young people are getting a similar experience and being housed equitably out of our homelessness system.”
To find out more about the work being done in Washington watch the full presentation.
Watch the video presentation.
Office of Homelessness
Also, in the video presentation hear from Jacqui Herring, the Executive Director at the Office of Homelessness, Department of Communities
Jacqui gave an update on the work of her office in the youth homelessness space.
“The Office of Homelessness understands and appreciates that youth homelessness is different to mainstream homelessness,” Jacqui said. “We know that it needs to be informed by youth lived experience with a focus on developing basic life skills and trauma-informed case management.
“What we have ahead of us is an opportunity to look at how we can prevent youth homelessness. I know Sandy McKiernan and the YACWA team are about to commence work on a Housing First for youth model. This is important as youth homelessness is different and needs a different response.
“Within the commissioning process that we will be progressing, we will be having some dedicated sessions on youth, so we make sure we get the voices of lived experience youth, and youth homelessness services to ensure that our youth homelessness system fits within the broader system, but it has its own attention. We recognise the provision of youth services requires a different approach.
“We will be running an extensive series of sector co-working days to be announced soon … we will engage with funded and unfunded youth services and work with these services to engage young people with lived experience.”
Youth Affairs Council of Western Australia (YACWA)
In the final part of the presentation Stefaan Bruce-Truglio, YACWA’s Senior Policy & Advocacy Officer gave a brief update on his work and that of the organisation.
“We are doing work in the youth homelessness space, with two key projects starting in the coming months,” Stefaan said. “These will assist the Department of Communities and work closely with the youth sector to inform and drive action to prevent and end youth homelessness and to support young people to access secure housing and maintain independent living.
“Our Housing First Youth Research Project is employing a project officer to bring together young people, youth sector and other experts in the space to understand what a real housing for youth project looks like. We will be undertaking a review of national and international best practice literature and engaging young people with lived experience of homelessness. We are holding consultation workshops later this year.
“Our other project is re-establishing the Youth Homelessness Advisory Council. It was last active in 2019 and had a crucial role in supporting and developing the WAAEH Youth Homelessness Action Plan."
Funding was received by the Sisters of St John of God to recommence this project.
Homelessness Week 2022 would not be possible without the support of our sponsors: Lotterywest, the WA Alliance to End Homelessness, Department of Communities, Fleetwood Australia, Uniting Church in the City and Beyond Bank.
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