'Invisible' homeless cry for help

Tamara is one of many young people who have experienced homelessness. She and her family have moved around friends’ houses couch-surfing, a recognised form of homelessness.
Tamara is one of many young people who have experienced homelessness. She and her family have moved around friends’ houses couch-surfing, a recognised form of homelessness. Claudia Baxter

A TEENAGER who couch-surfed for six months, another who lost their job and started living in their car, and a young family who bunked down in an Ipswich park.

Ipswich Community Youth Service's housing support worker David Lonne said stories like these were becoming too common.

"It's been really busy over the last three months, I'm not sure what it is but on a phone-call basis we're taking about 60 calls a month," Mr Lonne said.

"From June 2011 to now, our five (crisis accommodation) properties were full about 85% of the time."

Mr Lonne works on the ICYS Youth Housing and Support Program, and helps people aged up to 25 find safe places to live.

Twenty-two-year-old Tamara phoned ICYS when she and her two children became homeless.

"We had no place to live when me and my partner broke up, and we ended up spending two nights in a park," Tamara said.

"That was the worst.

"I reckon I was homeless. It's not a good place to be because you're stressed and you want to be stable and you want your children to be safe."

Tamara said she was unable to find accommodation for a number of reasons.

"My family live overseas and I was able to stay at a friend of friend's house for two nights.

"I think it (homelessness) happens because a few things happen and you're not prepared - I'd left my job to have my little girl and hadn't been able to find work, and then my car broke down and a few other things happened.

"It wasn't a good life."

She said living in temporary accommodation had given her the chance to re-establish her life.

"It takes some of the stress away, and it's let me look at my budget and look for work."

"I'm hoping to find something local, maybe in hospitality but anything that I can support my family with."

Mr Lonne said youth homelessness often went unnoticed. "It's really not as visible as people think," he said.

"More often than not it's a case of someone couch-surfing for months, spending a few nights at different houses.

"People living in cars is also not uncommon."

Mr Lonne said there were a number of reasons young people became homeless.

"Family breakdown is a big reason, and not having rental history is tough," Mr Lonne said.

"Once I received a call from a young person who had lost their job, gotten behind in rent and was evicted - that's a pretty common story."

He said the ICYS program was particularly concerned with crisis situations, especially those that concerned young children.

"We have five houses that we use for three-month emergency accommodation, and they're all full at the moment."

Mr Lonne said statistics indicated the rate of young Ipswich people seeking housing assistance this month was near to that during the 2011 floods.

"In March 2012 we had 64 people call for a housing service while in March 2011 we had contact from 76 people," he said.

"Given the event was the floods, the numbers are still comparable and they show it's a big issue."

ICYS will host a film night on Friday, April 13, to premiere its self-produced short film about youth homelessness in Ipswich.

The event will run from 5pm in the Barry Jones Auditorium in the Ipswich Library complex.


Phone ICYS on 3812 1050 for housing help.

Topics:  homeless

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