The range of barriers experienced by young people accessing our assertive outreach program – YHOP – can vary significantly between individuals. However, one of the most prevalent and common barriers is unstable accommodation.

In 2021, one in four young people accessing the services are staying in unstable housing – everything from couch surfing to insecure rentals and even sleeping rough.

Resourcing within the housing sector is tight, and navigating eligibility and appropriate pathways and referrals is overwhelming for a young person – particularly young people who are experiencing one or more other issues like poor mental health or family violence.

Our Senior YHOP Coach shared the very real situation young people face, “the housing and mental health support systems are incredibly complex and challenging to navigate. It’s illogical to think that a vulnerable young person who is already experiencing complex barriers would be able to navigate this by themselves. With services like YHOP or programs like Off the Couch, so many individuals would just disappear into the service system – their complexities and barriers would escalate, and more young lives would be lost.”

So, we launched Off the Couch.

Off the Couch is an intervention initiative for young people aged 17 - 25 years who are, or at risk of, experiencing homelessness in the LGAs of Hume and Moreland. The program is designed specifically to engage young people before they need to use crisis housing services and access an already overflowing support systems.

Some of the key outcomes we seek to achieve include:

  • Sourcing somewhere safe, secure and stable to live
  • Collaborate with each young person to navigate the rental market, tenancy agreements, rights and responsibilities
  • Increase individuals’ confidence and independence to enter and sustain tenancies
  • Engage young people into paid employment or education pathways to build financial independence
  • Improve overall wellbeing, mental health, and family/peer relationships to strengthen support networks
  • Increase social connectedness so that young people are not just housed and forgotten.

To strengthen the wrap around support and potential outcomes for participants, we have also teamed up with our friends at VincentCare to work on sustaining long-term housing and accommodation outcomes for participants.

This year we were able to engage 40 young people across Hume and Moreland into intensive support through Off the Couch to address their immediate, social, and housing needs.

All 40 young people achieved stabilised accommodation and housing outcomes.

One of these young people was Sam. After being discharged from the emergency department following a severe family violence incident, Sam found herself sleeping on her friend’s Auntie’s couch, as well as a different friend's couch. Although she had somewhere safe to stay, this was far from a stable, long-term accommodation solution.

Within days of intensive case management, our YHOP team were able to connect Sam with an immediate accommodation solution whilst connecting her to a myriad of other supports including mental health counselling, medical care, child protection services and legal support.

Through Off the Couch, and in collaboration with our friends at VincentCare, we were able to escalate Sam’s needs to the highest possible priority to ensure she was free from physical harm and her accommodation was stabilised.

Our long-term goal for young people accessing Off the Couch is to lessen the reliance on crisis housing support and decrease the risk of young people just like Sam falling back into unstable accommodation or homelessness.

If you would like to find out more about our youth-specialist assertive outreach programs in Melbourne’s north, check out this page.