The Whitehouse can accommodate up to 8 young people at any one time, aged between 16 – 25 years, who are either homeless or at risk of being homeless. We have been proactive in seeking referrals for young people who have left the out of home care system and, therefore, they make up the majority of the residents at the property. Actively seeking referrals from this group was made with the knowledge that the rate of homelessness amongst these very vulnerable young people is high. The options within the community for them to obtain suitable housing are very limited and often difficult to sustain.
The care system exits all young people before or at age 18, which is young to leave home by our current community standards. Added to this is the reality that most young people come to care having experienced some form of trauma and abuse that inevitably impacts on their development and subsequent ability to make their way in the world.
At the Whitehouse we are able to take advantage of the fact that we can offer our residents not only the critical stability of a ‘roof over their head’, but also support to work on other aspects of their life that increases their chances of success when they leave us. The support is provided from both a paid caseworker and a volunteer live in mentor who assists in many ways, including maintaining employment and training and connection to family, friends and community. We also recognise that working on these goals takes time so young people are able to stay at the property for up to two years to give them ample opportunity to achieve them.
What we have confirmed since our first resident moved in about 18 months ago is that this important combination of stability of housing and support really works. It has been encouraging to see how actively the residents have sought advice from both the case worker and mentor. The combination of increased independence and having someone to fall back on if needed, are proving to be the right combination for them. With support and guidance, the young people are also learning to negotiate the ups and downs of shared living and it has also been wonderful to see the relationships they have formed with each other.
Our first resident moved out six months ago and is doing well. As often happens with young people who have been in care, she has returned home to family. When she left care at 18, she was not yet ready to do this. However, the maturity and independence she gained whilst living at the Whitehouse have given her the confidence to negotiate the ‘post care’ and more adult relationships with her birth family. Whilst this may not be the outcome for all our residents, we are confident that they are all making the most of the opportunity.
None of this would have been possible without the truly wonderful gift from the Peter and Lyndy White Foundation.
Senior Manager Youth Services, Berry Street