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Housing and Homelessness Charities Mental Health

Homelessness and mental health spotlighted on two global awareness days

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Homelessness and mental health

Victorian charity working to end youth homelessness is calling on Australians to consider the link between homelessness and mental health today, with both World Homeless Day and World Mental Health Day taking place (10 October 2023). 

Melbourne-based Lighthouse Foundation has helped more than 1220 youth at risk of, or experiencing homelessness since 1991, with a unique model that provides psychological support to both young people in care, and their carers. 

The not-for-profit’s latest statistics show more than 50 per cent (54%) of young people who came into Lighthouse’s care in the 2022-23 financial year sought support for mental health. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data shows 31% of Australians using specialist homelessness services had a current mental health issue. 

“Nearly all of the young people that come into our care have a history of abuse, and these traumatic experiences can have a profoundly negative effect on psychosocial, cognitive, and physiological development,” said Lighthouse Foundation CEO, Dr Eamonn McCarthy. 

According to Dr McCarthy mental health concerns are known to be an underlying driver of homelessness. 

“Lighthouse’s trauma-informed practice creates a therapeutic treatment environment where the mental and physical wellbeing, and social and emotional capacities, of our young people, are enriched.” 

“Healing takes place in the community, so awareness days like today are an important opportunity to come together to think about the role we can all play in helping to raise these vulnerable children.” 

The young people referred to Lighthouse Foundation are likely to have met a diagnosis of at least one mental health disorder, and each year, on average, the organisation carries out approximately 4200 psychology sessions. 

Dr Eamonn McCarthy highlighted that Lighthouse’s model also went a step further, ensuring carers and staff are also given psychological support. 

“Lighthouse Foundation provides therapeutic care to our carers, including one-on-one sessions, reflective practice, and a ‘hub home’ where foster carers can seek respite,” he said. 

“This helps ensure our carers have adequate support to navigate potentially challenging experiences and an opportunity to seek direction on the best ways to support the young people they care for.” 

The latest census data shows more than 45,000 children and young people in Australia are without a safe home, and The Youth Affairs Council of Victoria estimates there are around 6,000 young people experiencing homelessness in Victoria. 

To draw attention to the urgent needs of youth experiencing homelessness, the Lighthouse Foundation is asking Australians to come together to donate $10 at 10.10 am on 10th October. The organisation’s goal is that 10 out of 10 young people who go through its programs forever break the cycle of homelessness. 

Related: Featured CEO: Dr Eamonn McCarthy of the Lighthouse Foundation 

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Menchie Khairuddin is a writer Deputy Content Manager at Akolade and content producer for Third Sector News. She is passionate about social affairs specifically in mixed, multicultural heritage and not-for-profit organisations.

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