Young, vulnerable and homeless in Canberra – how YouthCARE is helping

Emily Morris 27 August 2014

He’s been in trouble with the law. Minor stuff, but his family don’t want to help and don’t want him around. He was 15, with an alcohol problem. YouthCARE Canberra (formerly Open Family ACT) found him and offered him a hand. Today, he’s an apprentice with a part-time job. And he doesn’t need to drink his troubles away any more.

Five boys aged 12 to 15. Together, they live in a disused office building. It’s cold, and damp and there’s no food unless YouthCARE bring it to them. None of them go to school, there’s no money, and they won’t, or can’t go home.

These are just a few of the desperate real life issues a youth care worker faces each day. YouthCARE Canberra is so effective in supporting young people in dire situations to find shelter (even a tent or a swag), get financial support, find work, or go back to school that they have become an automatic referral point for the police, the Crime Reduction Team, drug and alcohol support services, the YWCA and Youth Justice.

The problem of homelessness generally, and youth homelessness in particular, is growing in Canberra – the city with the highest per capita income in Australia – at an alarming rate.

St John’s Care in Reid, which houses the youth care worker, reports increasing incidents of families living in cars, because the Earth has fallen out from under them. St John’s provides food, advice, clothing and whatever it takes to help. Young people in those families are particularly vulnerable to drifting away, and the YouthCARE charter is to bring them back into mainstream society.

YouthCARE Canberra has been operating, largely as Open Family ACT, for 28 years in the capital. It began initially as the Canberra office of the national Open Family charity organisation. Now wholly Canberra-based, it has a small but strong network of supporters, many of whom have been involved for over 25 years.

YouthCARE Canberra’s sole aim is to raise funds to support their youth care worker. There is a need for more than one worker, of course, but competition for donations is strong and there are only so many donated dollars to spare in our community. Every dollar raised in Canberra stays in Canberra, and there are no overheads to dilute donations.

YouthCARE Canberra raises funds through a number of special events throughout the year. You can help by joining the annual YouthCARE Canberra Race Day on October 10th at Thoroughbred Park, or attending the annual PM’s X1 Cricket Breakfast every year before the Big Game at Manuka Oval.

This week, rugby legends Mark Loane ( 28 Wallabies caps), Stephen Larkham (102 Wallabies caps) and Stephen Moore (92 Wallabies caps), along with MC Tim Gavel from the ABC, raised funds for YouthCARE Canberra with a forensic examination of the Brumbies’ Super Rugby season and the Bledisloe Cup.


Other events are also held throughout the year and are advertised locally and at

Help YouthCARE to help them to a better life – and a home.

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