Helping youth create their future

Today is Youth Homelessness Matters Day 2017. Jason Juretic is CEO of Stepping Stone House, a not-for-profit organisation helping vulnerable youth to grow into self-sufficient and independent adults, starting with a safe and secure home environmentHe spoke to Open Forum about the importance of addressing the prevalent issue of youth homelessness in Australia. 

Youth Homelessness Matters Day 2017 aims to raise awareness for youth homelessness in Australia – an issue that’s very close to our hearts here at Stepping Stone House.

On any given night in Australia, 1 in 200 people are sleeping rough. Shockingly, one-third of these people are youth under the age of 25. Many of these vulnerable young people are hidden from society, sleeping in refuges, cars or are couch surfing. Others are not so lucky and must survive on the streets.

At Stepping Stone House, what motivates us every day is our mission to end youth homelessness. To do this, we provide a safe “home away from home”, with long-term care, support and developmental programs for vulnerable youth who are unable to live with their families.

To ensure our youth have access to education and future job prospects, we also require our residents to attend school and acquire a part-time job. Amazingly, 87% of our youth complete Year 12. Fundraisers like our annual ‘Sleep Under the Stars’, held in October, make all the difference in ensuring that our young people have a secure and sustainable path in life.

So how do our youth end up in this situation? It is for a variety of reasons. Family conflict, mental illness, abuse, parents with alcohol and drug addictions and poverty are common. Many of our young people have been estranged from their families due to their sexuality.

As one of the most expensive cities in the world, Sydney is a difficult place for any young person to be able to afford rent and food, let alone those most at risk and without support. That’s why we house young people from the age of 12 all the way through to 24, guiding our residents through our ‘Stepping Stones to Success’ program until they have the life skills and finances to live independently.

So, on Youth Homelessness Matters Day 2017, we at Stepping Stone House pledge our support to the cause and will continue to work tirelessly to transform the lives of vulnerable youth. We will continue to pave the way for vulnerable youth to develop and grow into self-sufficient and independent adults, starting with a safe and secure home environment.

This article was first published in Open Forum