Fighting losing battle for at-risk youth

Esben Kaas-Sorensen (Anglicare WA), Peta Nordberg (Mission Australia), Brad Watson (Salvation Army) and Leah Watkins (St Vincent de Paul).
Esben Kaas-Sorensen (Anglicare WA), Peta Nordberg (Mission Australia), Brad Watson (Salvation Army) and Leah Watkins (St Vincent de Paul).

Meet the people working behind the scenes for Anglicare WA, Mission Australia, Salvation Army and St Vincent de Paul to break the cycle of youth homelessness and suicide.

Anglicare WA Street Connect co-ordinator Esben Kaas-Sorensen said limited long-term housing meant community outreach organisations were often fighting a losing battle.

‘Even if we get down to the nitty gritty of the issues that lead to youth sleeping on the streets, there simply is not enough brick and mortar to house those 2000 homeless kids in the city and Northbridge tonight,’ Mr Kaas-Sorensen said.

‘We can get someone into crisis accommodation if we’re lucky to find a vacancy, but then they can only stay there for three months and they’re back on the streets.

‘Are you going to address family abuse, truancy, employment and mental health issues in three months? I would like to have that magic wand.’

Mission Australia regional leader Peta Nordberg said WA had one of the highest rates of youth homelessness in Australia, second only to the Northern Territory.

‘We are leading the country in unemployment for young people, have the lowest number of crisis services and even less transitional housing for people in need,’ Ms Nordberg said.

Salvation Army corps officer Brad Watson said he doubted that many realtors would recommend a young person coming from a mental illness or substance abuse background who had not previously maintained their own accommodation.

‘We also have unique State Government initiatives that compound the issue, like the three strikes policy, the curfew’