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Living rough: 40,000 young people locked out of housing

Rudi Maxwell -

When young Kamilaroi woman Imogen was a teenager she was faced with an impossible choice.

Stay in a violent environment or become homeless.

So for 10 years from the age of 14, Imogen experienced homelessness and the many struggles that accompany not having a safe base.

"I'm finally in a place where I can say that I feel secure," Imogen told AAP, "but even then, knowing my past, it's quite hard to feel secure when you know your whole life could get upturned within seconds."

Tyler faced a similar dilemma.

First sleeping on the street at 21, Tyler moved from bed to couch to bench with everything they owned.

"I had broken ribs, cigarette burns all over my body," Tyler said.

"I tried to kill myself.

"Last month I had a housing plan that included finding a safe park to sleep in."

Some 40,000 young people are homeless and locked out of the social and affordable housing system.

On Wednesday, homelessness and housing groups will launch a national plan to fix housing for young people, backed by the Parliamentary Friends of Housing in Canberra.

Analysis by consultants Nous found 40,000 young people are alone, homeless and locked out of Australia's social and affordable housing system.

This includes 11,900 First Nations young people or around 30 per cent of the total figure.

Imogen said her experience had been that most services, including dedicated Aboriginal housing, are designed for mature adults.

"I've been on that waiting list for over seven years myself and I still probably won't get looked at because I am a single adult," she said.

"There are so many factors that come into it that need to be addressed, especially for First Nations youth.

"Such as, if you have a criminal record or you're under the age of 18, it makes it that much harder to be able to secure housing and Indigenous youth need access to safe housing."

The Nous research found 9600 children aged 15-17 sought help from a homelessness service.

Nearly three-quarters (72 per cent) of the entire group of 40,000 were disconnected from all forms of education, training and employment.

Honey was among those who could not find safe accommodation.

When she was 16, she slept in the emergency ward of a hospital because she had nowhere else.

"At 17, I had to fight an adult man with my bedroom door so he did not sexually assault me," she said.

"There is no real option for 'youth safe' housing in Australia and that has to change or more kids and young people are going to spend nights in fear for their lives."

The National Youth Housing Framework is backed by Homelessness Australia, Community Housing Industry Association and a range of frontline services.

Homelessness Australia chief Kate Colvin said children and young people were being let down.

It calls for three major reforms: to develop and maintain 15,000 dedicated youth tenancies for 15-24 year olds; provide linked support to a broad range of services; and address the rental gap to ensure viability for housing providers offering tenancies to young people.

Tyler said they had needed trauma-informed housing options when they first left home but the system had failed.

"I was referred to adult services and then declined from adult services because of my age."

After four years of not having secure and safe housing, last Friday Tyler moved into their own place.

"It's overwhelming, it still doesn't really feel real," they said.

"There's a sense of safety that comes with the chaos, because it's something that I grew up in, I came from a background of family violence.

"So having the quiet that I have now in the place that I live is almost disquieting because it's so unusual, it's so new to me."

Homelessness Australia chief executive Kate Colvin said the Nous analysis shows a clear policy failure for children and young people in need of housing assistance.

"These kids need a safe home and ongoing support to build a decent future for themselves," she said.

13YARN 13 92 76

Aboriginal Counselling Services 0410 539 905

1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732)

Lifeline 13 11 14

Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800 (for people aged 5 to 25)

beyondblue 1300 22 4636

Rudi Maxwell - AAP

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