Case worker Katon Crawford, specialist homelessness service co-ordinator Sharon Jones and residential youth worker Dan Organ look over the online petition. Photo courtesy of the Western Advocate

Wednesday, 5 April 2017 is national ‘Youth Homelessness Matters Day’ (#YHMD2017) and Veritas House is calling on local residents to mark the occasion by considering how they can support young people in Bathurst and Orange who are at risk of experiencing homelessness.

More than 26,000 young Australians aged 12-25 are experiencing homelessness every night. In most instances, they do not have a home because they are escaping conflict and violence; and they find it difficult to find a home because of the housing affordability crisis in Australia.

According to Veritas House CEO, Jody Pearce, YHMD is an opportunity to breakdown the stigma and stereotypes attached to youth homelessness.

“A common misconception is that young people leave home because they want to or because they want more freedom to live without rules and restrictions, but we know that this is simply not the case for the vast majority of local young people we have supported over the past 30 years,” she explained.

“Some 70% of young people experiencing homelessness are escaping a negative home environment, which often includes an abusive, violent or broken home and most are hidden from view through couch surfing or sleeping in cars.

“This is why there needs to be more focus on educating the public on what to do if they identify a young person who is at risk of, or is experiencing homelessness, so they can be supported to access specialist homelessness services, like the Veritas refuge, to get the help they need to get back on their feet,” she said.

If you or someone you know needs assistance or advice on options, contact Veritas House on 6332 3882 during business hours or 0407 188 877; or Link2Home on 1800 152 152.

Another way local residents can help make a change is by supporting the campaign for a national plan to address youth homelessness.

“Youth homelessness needs a strategic approach at a national level to ensure we can support young people at every stage, from early intervention to crisis support. The online petition at youthhomelessnessmatters.net aims to demonstrate to government that there is significant community support for action on this important issue,” said Jody.

Veritas House is a not-for-profit organisation that was established in Bathurst more than 30 years ago and has grown to become one of the largest providers of foster care and youth homelessness services in the region, supporting more than 300 children and young people in Bathurst and Orange each year.