Mission Australia has called for governments to invest early to prevent young people ending up homeless in response to a new report released today.

The Cost of Youth Homelessness Report, which was partly funded by Mission Australia and included interviews with clients, compared those who were accessing homelessness services or who were identified as being at high risk of homelessness with disadvantaged young people identified through JSA services.

Catherine Yeomans, CEO Mission Australia said: “This report paints a stark picture of the cost to society of failing to support vulnerable young people who are homeless or at high risk of homelessness.

Importantly, the study shows that preventing young people from becoming homeless in the first place could save governments an estimated $626 million per year across the youth justice and health services systems alone.

“It is unacceptable in 21st century Australia, that there are more than 44,000 children and young people homeless on any given night. Last year we called on all governments to commit to halving youth homelessness by 2020.This report once again highlights the need for immediate action.

“As we near the Federal Election we urge the Government to consider the findings of this report to ensure they are investing early to prevent young people ending up homeless.

“We know from our experience that the long term prospects for young people who become homeless are not good – a disjointed education, lack of support network, risky drug and alcohol use and mental illness. It makes sense to intervene early to address the risk factors rather than waiting until a young person is already homeless.

We believe early intervention models should be expanded, especially family engagement services like Reconnect which work with young people and their families by providing counselling, mediation and practical support. The funding runs out for this program in June 2017 and we have no clear idea of its future beyond that date.

There are also successful school-based identification and intervention programs for youth homelessness such as the Geelong and Ryde Projects that should be rolled out to all high risk communities as a priority.

Considering that this research previously found that nearly two thirds of young homeless people who were surveyed had been in out of home care by the time they turned 18, governments need to take a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to young people leaving the out-of-home care system becoming homeless.

“These early intervention efforts can reduce the need for specialist services further down the line, as well as health and justice costs and greatly improve the wellbeing of vulnerable young people by preventing homelessness before it occurs,” Ms Yeomans added.

Read the full report here.

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