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Housing support helps self-belief grow

The strong links between homelessness and contact with the criminal justice system are well documented. Twenty-five per cent of people entering prison experience homelessness in the four weeks before entering prison and more than half of those who are incarcerated, leave prison in Victoria are homeless upon release. The statistics are far from surprising to Kane Apelu, Manager of Housing Programs at Jesuit Social Services.

“I’d say 100 per cent of our program participants have either experienced homelessness or are at risk of homelessness and it contributes to leading them into offending behaviours. Prison environments are not conducive to rehabilitation, so we focus on providing safe and secure housing for participants so they can use it as a platform to address the other aspects of their lives,” he says.

Jesuit Social Services’ Manager of Housing Programs, Kane Apelu, says stable housing gives young people involved with the justice system the stable base they need to get their lives back on track.

Jesuit Social Services’ housing programs include Dillon House and Perry House – both of which provide supported accommodation for young people experiencing homelessness upon leaving the criminal justice system. Perry House specifically focuses on supporting young people with intellectual disabilities.

The Link Youth Justice Housing Program facilitates access to stable housing for young people aged 16 to 22 years who are exiting the justice system and also provides a crucial after-hours support service to engage participants during the highest risk time for reoffending.

“We work through that psychological and emotional barrier first and foremost, getting participants to recognise that the support we provide is not transactional, and that the stability we provide gives them an opportunity to move forward in life.”

As Kane explains, the work of the programs goes well beyond providing a safe and secure roof over the participants’ heads.

“Generally speaking, young people who come into Perry or Dillon House haven’t felt as if they’ve been validated in the community. There’s an unfamiliarity of being in an environment where they’re valued as people,” he says.

“We work through that psychological and emotional barrier first and foremost, getting participants to recognise that the support we provide is not transactional, and that the stability we provide gives them an opportunity to move forward in life.”

Another focus of the programs is to support participants to develop their independent living skills.

“When you’ve got a young person coming out of custody, you ask them if they’ve ever had a bank card before. Some of them might not even know what a bank card is. Some of them don’t know how to go to a bank or use online services to create a bank account.

“Our role as practitioners is to let them know that ‘we believe in you and believe you can attain whatever it is you’re wanting to in the future’.”

“It comes down to building those really trusting and respectful relationships where you can unpack those things. Participants can present with a sense of hopelessness and helplessness because they’ve always been pushed to the side.

“Our role as practitioners is to let them know that ‘we believe in you and believe you can attain whatever it is you’re wanting to in the future’.

“Over time you start to see the self-belief within participants grow as they see there’s an organisation that believes in them and wants to make a difference and give them opportunities for a better life.”

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