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Sixteen and nowhere to call home

04 August 2022

Community services
We take a look at the misconceptions surrounding youth homelessness in Australia and how St John of God Horizon House offers young people at risk of homelessness a place to call home.

According to Homelessness Australia, of the more than 116,000 homeless people in Australia, 38 per cent are aged 12 to 24.

One of the biggest misconceptions around youth homelessness in Australia is that all young people who are homeless are sleeping rough on the streets, but this is not necessarily the case.

Many of these young people are living in unsafe or unstable accommodation, couch surfing and regularly moving between the homes of friends and extended family with many regularly exposed to violence and abuse.

Homelessness is the result of people coming up against a series of complex barriers that prevent them from accessing safe and sustainable accommodation.

For young people this can occur due to a combination of one or more factors, such as family breakdown, family violence, death of a parent, mental health issues and overcrowding in family homes.

The impacts of homelessness and social stigma can be devastating and extend through every facet of a young person’s life.

A culture of shame and lack of understanding regarding the causes of homelessness are common challenges for young people.

When they are living in an overcrowded house or a living arrangement that is unsafe, it limits their ability to attend school, training and employment and engage positively with the community.

This can result in undiagnosed mental health issues which, if left untreated, may create complex problems for the young people.

By intervening early with the right support, we can help prevent this from happening.

How Horizon House helps

All young people who engage in the St John of God Horizon House program are supported to access education, training or employment opportunities and take part in a life skills program.

This teaches them essential skills such as cooking, cleaning, developing the capacity to form health relationships and the personal budgeting that they will need to live independently.

The Horizon House program operating out of Victoria and Western Australia offers three stages of accommodation to help the young person make the gradual transition to independent living.

These stages vary from intensive support to transitional semi-independent accommodation and support, and finally supported independent living.

Horizon House aims to prevent vulnerable young people aged 16 to 22 from entering the cycle of homelessness by providing a range of stable, secure long-term accommodation options and supporting them to set and achieve individual goals.

The program is unique because it provides a ‘whole person’, early intervention approach that aims not only to build a young person’s capacity to achieve and maintain safe accommodation, but also reconnect with their community and participate in employment, training and education opportunities.

Horizon House also provides specialist support for:

  • Vulnerable young mothers and their babies through the Horizon House Young Mother and Baby Program, currently available in Perth and Bendigo
  • Young Aboriginal men living in Broome, WA

We can all play a part in reducing the stigma around youth homelessness by promoting positive stories and acknowledging the challenges many young people have to overcome to remain connected to the community.

Find out more at St John of God Horizon House.


Naomi Boyd
Naomi Boyd - Director Homelessness and Support Services
Naomi Boyd is Director Homelessness and Support Services at St John of God Social Outreach. In this role, Naomi leads our Casa Venegas and Horizon House services. A mental health nurse with postgraduate qualifications in healthcare leadership and management, Naomi has spent two decades working in the sector. She is passionate about recovery and trauma informed care, which are the foundation of the Casa Venegas and Horizon House services.