Youth homelessness in rural areas is a symptom of complex social issues, worsened by limited services, education and employment, says a Gippsland care provider.
Mark Tanti, the Family and Relationships Program Manager of CatholicCare in Gippsland, leads a team of counsellors who frequently collaborate with other agencies such as the St Vincent de Paul Society, to provide counselling services for those who are experiencing homelessness.
He says that family breakdown, combined with family violence, sexual abuse, trauma and drug and alcohol issues, are key influences to the “hidden problem” of rural youth homelessness.
“It’s not a badge of honour that you wear, it’s really a badge of shame and it’s a symptom of all these other things that are going on,” he said.
Mr Tanti observes that rural families are subject to increasing pressures, arising from loss of employment in the midst of local industry closures and dairy industry woes, with family breakdown causing young people to find themselves on the streets.
“They rely on their networks and someone in their network will give them a bed or give them a couch and sometimes there will be all sorts of strings attached to that generosity,” he said.
A report released by Homelessness Australia this year cited that limited opportunities for education and employment in rural areas, combined with poor availability of access to care services and transport, can force young people to either leave for metropolitan areas or stay and face hardship.
Mr Tanti emphasises that local support services and public support is crucial to helping those experiencing homelessness, given that society at large is affected by the issue.
Ian Gough, Manager of Consumer Programs at the Council to Homeless Persons, echoes this sentiment and says that homelessness generates a moral, ethical and financial cost to the community.
“There’s a real cost in leaving people in homelessness,” he said.