By ANGELICA SNOWDEN
As the rate of youth homelessness in Australia rapidly increases, organisations such as Kids Under Cover are stepping in to help prevent young people from becoming homeless.
Data released earlier this year showed homelessness among 19-24-year-olds increased by 46 per cent between the 2006 and 2016 censuses.
Kids Under Cover is a not-for-profit organisation that focuses on early intervention by providing creative housing solutions for young people at risk of homelessness.
Kids Under Cover client services and outcomes coordinator Mark Gooneratne said they specialised in the prevention of youth homelessness.
“We get cases where there are warning signs like a young person is avoiding being at home and staying at his friends' places,” he said.
“So we come in during that period and, say if there is a problem, we can prevent this young person from leaving home by providing a studio.”
They build one and two-bedroom studios with bathrooms in backyards, primarily for kids aged 12 to 15.
These are for families who are at risk of breakdown, and foster carers who need extra space to accommodate young people can apply to have studios built on their property.
Mr Gooneratne recently finalised a two-bedroom studio addition for some new clients.
“The family had two foster parents who had four kids of their own and had taken on three other young people as well,” he said.
“They were in a three-bedroom house. When I got there, they were so excited. We just finished building, our inspector was doing the final inspection and the teenagers were already moving their stuff because they couldn’t wait to get in there.
“When I spoke to the mum, she was in tears."
Kids Under Cover builds strong partnerships with community organisations to prevent youth homelessness in other ways.
“There could be mental health problems and a bunch of other issues,” Mr Gooneratne said.
“If we provide a studio we try to make sure the young person is supported in other areas of their life as well.”
To ensure the program achieves its aims, Mr Gooneratne meets with families and kids at the end of the program.
“I try to find out if the young person has gone on to do study, have they gone on to private rental, have they gone on to something that is better than their prior situation,” he said.
“Our goal is to make sure that we help, and that at the end of the program these kids got a head start in what they want to do.”