Collaborative effort delivers homelessness prevention to people aged under 16

Sharon Kelley 27 July 2020
Conflict Resolution Service Family Support Program manager Hamish Guthrie in office with client.

Conflict Resolution Service Family Support Program manager Hamish Guthrie. Photo: Supplied.

Young people and their parents may be experiencing conflict that is magnified by COVID-19 lockdown conditions, but a collaborative program run by Conflict Resolution Service (CRS), Youth Coalition of the ACT, Woden Community Service (WCS), Northside Community Service (NCS) and Marymead is reuniting parents and young people at risk of homelessness.

The Safe and Connected Youth Project is a partnership keeping families connected in a positive and structured way when conflict causes risk of homelessness for young people aged 16 years and under.

CRS Family Support Program manager Hamish Guthrie said conflict can arise in families for many reasons, but close confinement during COVID-19 lockdown conditions can exacerbate issues for parents and teenagers.

“Coming out of COVID-19, we expect to see families coming up with intense problems because of months spent locked in a house together,” said Mr Guthrie. “For some people, it’s a good bonding experience. For others, it puts a huge strain on family relationships.

“Communication breakdown is very common and it happens early on because the young person and the parents are both frustrated, and then the relationship starts to fracture and fall apart.”

CRS CEO Melissa Haley said family conflict is the highest contributing factor to youth homelessness.

“This program is essential to keeping young people and their families connected,” she said. “It is crucial in our community and it is important we continue to work with other like-minded organisations to provide a service for young people at risk of becoming homeless.”

Youth Coalition of the ACT executive director Dr Justin Barker.

Youth Coalition of the ACT executive director Dr Justin Barker. Photo: Supplied.

Youth Coalition of the ACT executive director Dr Justin Barker said the program delivers safe emergency accommodation through Marymead, conflict resolution and de-escalation through CRS, and continued case management services from WCS and NCS, forming an effective team to help families through tough times.

“When we first pitched the idea of the Safe and Connected Youth Project to the ACT Government, there was no targeted youth homelessness supports for kids aged under 16 and their families,” he said.

“Taking an evidence-based approach, we put together a service model which uses and enhances existing services and skills, and combines them into an effective partnership.

“Fortunately, the ACT Government has funded the program to the end of this calendar year and we are hoping to continue it with a permanent facility similar to South Australia’s Ruby’s Reunification model in the future.

“The Safe and Connected Youth Project is a collaboration that continues to improve and adapt to respond to the needs of these children, young people and families.”

Woden Community Service therapeutic support worker Cindy Young (right) with WCS CEO Jenny Kitchin (left).

Woden Community Service therapeutic support worker Cindylee Young (right) with WCS CEO Jenny Kitchin (left). Photo: Danielle Jukic.

NCS and WCS provide support to young people with case management and family support services. WCS therapeutic support worker Cindylee Young said resolving and de-escalating conflict between parents and young people can be about managing expectations within the family.

“We need to get to the root of the problem in the first place,” she said. “The cause of disengaging from the family relationship, and the difference between what parents expect and what the young person expects within the home. We try to resolve those differences and ensure everyone feels they are heard, and that everyone within the family unit takes responsibility.”

If you are experiencing family conflict, email Conflict Resolution Service or call 02 6189 0590 for information on the Family Support Program, or Family Dispute Resolution Services.

For further information about family services, email Woden Community Service or call 02 6282 2644. Or email Northside Community Service or call 02 6171 8000.


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