'IT'S not a sleepover if you can't go home', and unfortunately for many young people, a long-lasting sleepover is the situation they're currently in.
Wednesday is Youth Homelessness Matters Day, but everyday local support services do everything they can to help young people in the region find a permanent home.
Tamworth Family Support Service (TFSS) youth homelessness service manager, Annette Pascoe, said young people impacted by homelessness were mostly "couch surfing".
But there's a long list of barriers stopping these 16-24 year olds from accessing a place of their very own, like mental health problems, unsupportive families, a lack of rental history, and low incomes.
The affordability of a home in itself is another tough spot.
"The competition to get that property is really strong, which is why we encourage [clients] to get a job because you've got a much better chance," Ms Pascoe said.
"Sometimes, it's about people having compassion and empathy because it's really tough for a young person."
TFSS early intervention and group work specialist, Elinor Anderson, said they had a "tool kit" to help them get past these barriers, with one important part the state government's 'Rent Choice Youth' (RCY) program.
"Basically, anyone between the ages of 16-24 who are studying or working can be eligible for certain criteria for the RCY program, which is basically that Homes North assists them with the rental costs on the private rental market for up to three years," Ms Anderson said.
"Usually the affordability is about $180, which in Tamworth, is almost non-existent, but it's getting them into a private rental rather than seeing them return to community housing."
As a back up, the support service also runs its youth refuge.
"We're only a four bedroom facility in Tamworth, so it would be great if we could take more [clients] because we very often have a waiting list, but that's what we're funded for and that's what's on Armidale Road," she told the Leader.
If someone doesn't have an appropriate place of shelter, or stable home to reside in, it has the potential to significantly impact their life and mental health.Centacare principal psychologist and executive leader for headspace, Josie Hofman.
The impacts of COVID-19 haven't helped the issue, either.
"Pre-COVID you were looking at 250 rentals on the rental market at any one time. I do a rental listing up every week in our general affordability and I think there's about 60 on that list now," Ms Anderson said.
"A lot of landlords are taking their properties back on to sell now, so we're seeing a lot of people in properties over years coming through, and can't get nowhere."
Centacare principal psychologist and executive leader for headspace, Josie Hofman, said raising awareness of these issues was of vital importance.
"If people are aware that this is happening and that couch surfing is something that's not normalised, but as a warning sign of 'hey, this is an individual that is not in a stable place for accommodation, what can we do to start that conversation? Can we encourage that person to be referred to local services?" Ms Hofman said.
"If we can get in there, have early intervention, start community consultation, provide support and access for people to get them into a position to have a safe, secure home, it's going to hopefully improve their outcomes.
"If someone doesn't have an appropriate place of shelter, or stable home to reside in, it has the potential to significantly impact their life and mental health."
If you or someone you know needs help, reach out via:
- Lifeline: 13 11 14
- Tamworth Family Support Service: 1800 073 388
- headspace Tamworth: 6762 9290
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