A partnership between Homelessness NSW,
Domestic Violence NSW and Yfoundations

Program - Connecting Home Youth Program at Social Futures

Excellence in Ending Homelessness - Young People Nominee

Program - Connecting Home Youth Program at Social Futures

Please give your reasons for nominating this program.

The Connecting Home Youth Team consistently exceed their targets, going above and beyond to provide genuine support and care. Though their roles comprise complex, often confronting issues, they unfailingly devise creative solutions. The team of 7 part-time staff spread between Tweed Heads and Grafton, cover a region sadly renowned for its lack of affordable housing. Vacancy rates average 1.6% with Ballina and Tweed Heads as low as 0.2% and 0.3%.
Far from throwing their hands in despair, our team sets about building capacity and fostering compassion within the communities where they work. One innovative creation is a short film where school students were given opportunity to ask questions to youth who had experienced homelessness first hand. This powerful film, selected as a State-wide Premiers Priorities Initiative to reduce youth homelessness, is available for screening in NSW schools alongside a program designed to increase understanding of youth homelessness, the issues behind it and how to access support or assist others. The film challenges stereotypes and assumptions about the causes and experiences of youth facing homelessness. It is a means of instilling compassion and understanding, educating people about how to access support, and encouraging young people to work on their relationships and issues, to keep them from the street where possible.
A further initiative is Survival Skills, a course held weekly over six weeks, designed by young people, empowering them to care for themselves. Linking in with existing agencies it teaches essentials including legal information, rights and responsibilities, managing budgets and tenancies, resume writing, employment and training, communications and managing conflict, and cooking skills with free meals provided. Extremely well attended with fantastic feedback, this program was also chosen as a Premiers Priorities Initiative. This program is run by our youth team in their own time, above and beyond their usual duties.

What outcomes were delivered as a result of this program?

The Survival Skills Course continues to be well attended with up to 30 at risk young people attending each session.
Throughout the course, participants are linked in with different services programs including headspace and mental health support services, job network agencies, Health NSW, Community Legal Centres and Real Estate Agents. When asked if participants felt more comfortable with going to services for help, having attended Survival Skills, all responded yes, with one participant saying: “Yes I do, now that I understand the services a bit more than what I did.”
Participants leave with skills in budgeting and managing money, and practical tips for making the dollar stretch further when shopping for essentials. Health NSW run engaging sessions on nutrition, health, cooking and preparing food, giving participants skills and take home recipes to try.
The most profound outcome of Survival Skills is the increased capability of young people to manage the resources they have, to know where and how to access help, and to self-care. 
A certificate of attendance is presented on completion for young people to show to real estate agents as evidence of their dedication to the 6 week program, and their commitment to living well.

Reference statement:

Gabrielle Le Bon

As a Social Worker with Centrelink I work regularly with Connecting Home Youth team members and am endlessly impressed by the level of care and compassion they hold for the people with whom they work.  Negotiating the balance of working within set government structures and policies whilst attending to the needs and concerns of young people in distress requires both a sound knowledge of available services and processes, and the ability to hold space and care for those affected by trauma. This is a balance which The Connecting Home Youth team navigate on a daily basis and is a tight rope they walk with aplomb.
The Youth Team are advocates in the community for young people experiencing or at risk of homelessness and they work tirelessly to raise awareness through various creative means. I am aware of events they have organised for Youth Homelessness Week - Photographic Exhibitions created by people experiencing homelessness and displayed in popular cafes to break down stereotypes and encourage compassion, their very moving youth film which never fails to bring tears, and courses to help instil confidence and resilience within the young people they serve. Strong advocates for inclusion, this team creates opportunities to ensure the issue of youth homelessness remains in the public eye and is not swept under the carpet, or left to shiver under a bridge.
For a small crew of people, they create an enormous impact and our community is richer and more inclusive for the work they do.
I heartily recommend this team for the Excellence Award in Ending Homelessness for Young People and hope to hear that this very deserving team is recognised for the astounding work they do.