The Geelong Project identified as leader in call for reform of youth homelessness policy

The Geelong Project, a partnership between schools and youth services across Geelong, has been described in The Costs of Youth Homelessness in Australia (CYHA) report to be released today as a ‘social innovation in service delivery.’

The world-first Australian study has shown that preventing young people from becoming homeless by strengthening and integrating school and youth services at a community level could save an estimated $626 million per year across the youth justice and health services systems alone.

The CYHA report shows that the cost to society, just from increased interactions with the health and criminal justice systems for young homeless people, exceeds the total annual cost of all homelessness services across Australia for people of all ages.

It calls for a complete reform of youth homelessness policy in Australia, citing The Geelong Project’s ‘community of schools and services’ (COSS) model as one of the innovative and successful ‘early intervention’ programs that, if rolled out nationally, could lead to millions of dollars in savings to the economy.

Mr Sandy Morrison, CEO of Barwon Child, Youth & Family (BCYF), the lead agency for The Geelong Project partnership, welcomed the report findings.

“The report describes the early intervention work pioneered and implemented by BCYF’s ‘The Geelong Project’ as a leading exemplar of a ‘collective impact’ model. The Geelong Project is calling for reform of local school and support service systems to better identify and respond to disadvantaged youth and families early, thus diverting them from a life course of homelessness and disadvantage. We welcome the recommendation for further investment in early intervention strategies.”

On the back of the impact of the COSS model in Geelong, it is now being piloted in two locations in New South Wales with a further seven foreshadowed in the near future. Pilot sites are also under development in South Australia and there is interest from Canada and the United States.

In 2014-15, close to 42,000 young people aged 15-24 years accessed homelessness services across Australia. A significant number are forced to leave home because of family violence. Without early intervention, homelessness results in significant health risks, an increased risk of interacting with the criminal justice system and, for many who are early school leavers, the possibility of life-long disadvantage.

About the Geelong Project

The Geelong Project intervenes early with young people at secondary school level who are clearly identified to be at risk of disengaging from school and family and entering the homelessness and related service systems. These are young people who display warning signs such as running away from home, couch surfing, and regularly missing school.

Identified young people and their families are provided with a key support worker to discuss their challenges at home and at school and work together to provide new opportunities for the young person aimed at re-engaging them with school, family and the community.

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