The Geelong Project honoured with Victorian Homelessness Achievement Award

The Geelong Project, a youth homelessness prevention service led by BCYF, has received state-wide recognition for its extraordinary work assisting young people at risk of homelessness.

The biennial Victorian Homelessness Achievement Awards, run by the Council to Homeless Persons, celebrate the exceptional effort of workers, consumers and organisations within the homelessness sector who have made an outstanding contribution to preventing or ending homelessness in Victoria.

The Geelong Project was named the winner of the ‘Excellence In Ending Homelessness – Young People’ award, announced at the Victorian Homelessness Conference in Melbourne on Monday.

The Geelong Project, led by BCYF, is a partnership aimed at intervening early with young people at risk of disengaging from or leaving school, disengaging from family, becoming homeless and entering the justice system.

The partnership includes Swinburne University, headspace Geelong and the Geelong Region Local Learning and Employment Network (LLEN). The project engages young people at Northern Bay College, Newcomb Secondary College, Geelong High School, Western Heights Secondary College, North Geelong Secondary College, Lara Secondary College and Grovedale Secondary College.

The project’s 10-year journey has seen the Geelong community rally together around a vision of addressing youth homelessness, early school leaving and other associated adverse outcomes for young people.

Research at the outset underwrote the development of the screening process; a significant investment of Innovation Action Project (IAP) funding established The Geelong Project model on the ground. However, it was only after the IAP Stage 2 funding was not forthcoming that the local system reforms and outcomes were achieved. 

The community rallied around the TGP vision and agenda for collective impact; from 2013-2016, clients coming through the Geelong Youth Entry Point was reduced from an average of about 230 per year to a new baseline of about 130 – a 40% decrease; at the same time, in the three pilot schools, early school leaving was reduced by close to 20%. 

The project received a positive response from the State government and the May 2018 budget provided $2.8m over two years to expand TGP from three to seven schools.

The Geelong Project has demonstrated that it is possible to reduce the flow in youth homelessness. The COSS Model is being adopted in the US, Canada and in Wales. There are two funded pilot sites in NSW and likely to be two Queensland pilot sites in 2020. 

The project has also recently received international interest with The Seattle Times, a United States-based newspaper, visiting Geelong this week to document the success of the project.

BCYF Manager Youth Services Mandy Baxter explained how important it was to be able to deliver such an impactful program to the Geelong region.

“BCYF provides homelessness support services to young people aged 15–25 years across the Barwon South West Region of Victoria,” she said.

“With its main Youth Homelessness Entry Point in Geelong, there are around 200 young people on the BCYF waitlist on any given night; many of them homeless and/or sleeping rough.

“The success of The Geelong Project is a testament to the hard work and dedication of like-minded partners to make a sustainable social impact in our community.

“This recognition of the Victorian Homelessness Achievement Award, along with the significant reduction of homelessness in those who have engaged with The Geelong Project, highlights the benefits and outcomes for young people and their families when we intervene early and with a solution-focused approach.”

To find out more about BCYF’s services, including homelessness services, or to find out how you can support, visit bcyf.org.au