Coming into 2021, we knew the demands of public health orders would continue putting pressure on people experiencing homelessness - not only those sleeping rough, but those too in insecure, crowded, substandard shared accommodation and rooming houses. It’s hard to stay at home if you are homeless.

This year’s Impact Report reflects on the exceptional outcomes achieved by our organisation, during some the worst of circumstances our communities have ever faced.

Led by a formidable and resilient Chief Executive Officer, Ben Vasiliou, our teams rose to the challenge by working flexibly, and quickly, to keep our services open and ensure people doing it tough were consistently able to access the most basic of human necessities. The energy of Ben’s leadership and resilience implored by teams on the frontline have got us through this time.

We maintained our street-based outreach services at night and developed some new approaches because demand did not abate.

Our services in the north were stretched, with an unprecedented number of young people unemployed and living on the margins at the centre of Melbourne’s largest ongoing Covid hotspot. And yet deep impact continued to be created by Youth Projects. 

The team continued supporting young people into new jobs and training, alongside our youth outreach services rolling out a Covid awareness campaign in our heartland created by and for young people living in the outer northern suburbs.

We refocused in-person services to effective, online delivery to maintain contact and support while keeping our team members and their families safe.

Down in the CBD, our after-hours nursing outreach teams stayed on the streets at night and so too our Foot Patrol and North West Outreach Services. 

Meanwhile, our social enterprise program expanded, opening two new cafes and expanding training pathways for young people. A humbling outcome of this expansion is the fact that the first of the two cafes opened (The Alfred) has gone on to serve over 130,000 coffees and meals to keep exhausted health workers nourished and caffeinated in very challenging circumstances. 

With so many diverse parts of our organisation, only the most dedicated kept up with the demands we faced. Our entire corporate services team, our people and culture resources, IT, finances and accounting, safety and quality portfolios all work quietly behind the scenes, often unseen, but their impact no less critical to our performance.

I thank them all for their achievements and contribution throughout this period, standing rock solid behind the entire organisation – the backbone of our operations.

The wheels of governance are not built for speed, but this pandemic has seen our board work rapidly with our Chief Executive to make safe and calculated decisions in response to the needs of our team and clients.

My colleagues – The Hon. Monica Gould, Mark van Miltenburg, Adam Rollnik and Srinath Susarla – have been actively engaged with major strategic decisions and challenges over the last 12 months, always available and contributing valuable insights that have enabled us to be the best that we can be. 

Boards set the tone and culture, maintain the vision and values of an organisation, formulate strategy while maintaining prudent financial management. And this pandemic has certainly demonstrated how important an active and informed board is to organisational success. I cannot thank them enough for always being available, innovative and risk-willing when we’ve needed it most.

When it comes to achieving genuine social impact, the Youth Projects team are second to none. This year that hard work didn’t go unnoticed. Youth Projects was recognised for team innovation and improving health outcomes and patient wellbeing in HESTA’s 2021 Impact Awards, and highly commended for our pandemic response by Emergency Management Victoria in the 2021 Resilient Australia Awards.

Each year when our Impact Report is published, I am reminded just how high impact our organisation really is. It not only makes for a compelling read, but it also stands as a chronicle for outstanding pandemic response for community organisations and shows what real social change looks like at the very frontline where it’s felt the most.


Thank you.


Melanie Raymond, OAM

Chairperson, Youth Projects