Launched earlier this year, our Link Youth Justice Housing Program is an innovative pilot program that provides intensive support and housing to young people aged 15-22 who have had contact with the justice system and are at risk of homelessness.
The program, which has capacity for 15 young people over a two-year period, involves partner agency VincentCare taking out a private rental lease and then subletting out to a participant, bringing them into the normally exclusive rental market. The young person continues to be supported by Jesuit Social Services. Program participants are given a say in where they would like to live and the option to share housing with friends or family, should they take on the lease at the end of the two-year period.
Jesuit Social Services’ Coordinator of Link Youth Justice Housing Program, Elle Jackson, believes that securing housing is the biggest challenge to at-risk young people. “Not having access to a stable place to live or sleep means you have young people offending to meet their daily living needs,” Elle says.
Beyond finding suitable housing for young people, the program provides after-hours support to engage them during the highest risk time for offending (5pm to 11pm) when, Elle says, they are “most likely to experience crisis”.
Elle says the program aims to help young people develop an identity outside of the justice system. “With the current discourse in the media, a lot of young people are really upset that they’re put in a category that they don’t want to be in. For us it’s about helping them have a new identity so they’re away from that path.”
Jesuit Social Services has a strong history of being part of innovative justice pilot programs, including diversion and the Navigator program for young people dropping out of school, both of which have gone on to receive expanded state government funding.