Hidden homeless in the region

Creating a giant jigsaw puzzle with solutions to ending youth homelessness are: Meaghan Vosz, Nicola Prosser, Sarah Bennett, Lincoln Knight, Lauren Magri and Kiya Lee.
Creating a giant jigsaw puzzle with solutions to ending youth homelessness are: Meaghan Vosz, Nicola Prosser, Sarah Bennett, Lincoln Knight, Lauren Magri and Kiya Lee.

They may not immediately appear to be homeless, but those kids sleeping on a friend's couch "for a few nights" may not have any real alternative.

They probably haven't left the family home for the fun of it. Many will be escaping domestic violence, neglect, parental drug or alcohol abuse, or child abuse.

The Northern Rivers has the highest number of homeless people in NSW, and nearly half of them are children or young adults.

In a local contribution to a national campaign aimed at raising public awareness of this problem, the Northern Rivers Social Development Council (NRSDC) held a Youth Homelessness Matters day at Goonellabah Sports and Aquatic Centre.

The theme of the day was 'Be part of the solution'.

Event organiser and NRSDC Youth Programs manager Brett Paradise said homelessness is everyone's problem and individuals as well as businesses and community groups can all help to be part of the solution.

"Counting the number of young people who are homeless can often be hard, because many young people don't see themselves as homeless," Brett said.

"These young people are the 'hidden homeless' - not your typical vision of street sleepers.

"They might be staying with friends, itinerant, or staying in inappropriate, unstable accommodation."

To engage people in contributing their creative solutions to youth homelessness, participants were given pieces of a giant jigsaw puzzle.

They were asked to write their ideas for creating youth housing solutions on the puzzle before it was all put together.

Brett said becoming homeless was not a life goal and many people were there due to traumatic circumstances.

"Having respect for their situation is important," he said.

"People can be advocates for youth and write to their MP highlighting their concerns.

"Or they can ask what local youth homelessness services need and make donations of services, goods or skills to them.

"Many young people just need a start. Businesses could consider employing a young person or providing a traineeship or work experience for them."

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