CEO Profile with Stephen Nash of Kids Under Cover
From a young age, Stephen Nash was motivated to help young people at risk. As a child, he recalls witnessing friends suffering traumatic experiences, which led to some of them being removed from their families and placed in what he much later learnt was the Out of Home Care system.
Sadly, even as a child, it was apparent to him that this limited their aspirations and opportunities, led to further trauma and was a fast track for some towards being institutionalised.
This early experience had a significant impact on Stephen and later motivated him to begin work in the community sector. In 1989 he began working in the sector as a student on placement, having been inspired by the Burdekin Inquiry into Youth Homelessness at the same time Kids Under Cover was being formed.
Having seen extensively first-hand the damaging experience of homelessness, Stephen has since dedicated his entire career to reducing homelessness and has worked tirelessly to create solutions which end homelessness for even the most vulnerable and difficult to house.
Stephen Nash says homelessness is like an iceberg. What you see at the tip are the people who are quite obviously living without a roof over their heads. Those on the streets sleeping rough, clearly reaching out for the help that many of us might not know how to give.
But he says it goes much deeper than that. The hidden homeless are those sleeping in their cars or in shelters after dark. For many young people, couch surfing at a mate’s might be a bed for a night or two, but it’s not a home. Homelessness can be quite invisible.
With a career in homelessness and housing spanning over 25 years, Stephen’s recent appointment as CEO of Kids Under Cover just makes sense.
His appointment comes at a time when young people aged under 25 comprise nearly 40 per cent of homeless people in Australia and the COVID-19 pandemic is putting greater pressure on disadvantaged young people than ever before.
Kids Under Cover is focused on the prevention and early intervention of youth homelessness. This focus saves lives, avoids the damaging impact on people falling into adult homelessness and provides opportunities for young people to flourish and realise their dreams and full potential.
Kids Under Cover aims to end the cycle of homelessness and make a meaningful difference in young people’s lives. The organisation’s primary role is to provide practical and life-changing studios and scholarships to ease pressure in overcrowded households where a young person is on the verge of becoming homeless and leaving school.
Kids Under Cover also provides village21 models where clusters of studios can be put in locations for young people who don’t live at home and need support when leaving the Out of Home Care system.
As an experienced homelessness campaigner and innovator, Stephen recognises that whilst the work of Kids Under Cover has had a profound impact on many young people and their families since its inception 30 years ago, there are still many thousands of vulnerable young people, and so much more to be done.
Kids Under Cover has experienced an increase in demand of 300 per cent since COVID-19 hit and, sadly, the organisation doesn’t have the funding to support these families and young people.
Stephen says it is heartbreaking to have to turn so many applications down simply because Kids Under Cover doesn’t have the funding to meet the growing demand. He says that for Australia to turn the tide on the youth homelessness crisis, there needs to be increased funding for prevention programs and services.
With years of experience in the sector behind him, Stephen Nash is pushing for a shift in focus from cure to prevention, more funding for early intervention services and a nationally coordinated approach to youth homelessness