Transitions held up by lack of housing

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Safe haven . . . Methodist Mission operations leader Sue Clarke in the large kitchen of the Youth Transition Home, which is at full capacity. PHOTO: BRENDA HARWOOD

Housing needs – Call for action

The Methodist Mission’s Youth Transition Home (YTH), which provides housing and support for young people aged 16 to 19, is operating at full capacity.

The Leith Valley house, which opened in January, has had a full complement of six young people in residence since April.

YTH co-ordinator Christine Thomas said the aim of the house had been to provide a stable and supervised home environment for young people for up to three months, to support and work with them on developing life skills before finding sustainable long-term housing for them.

Unfortunately, a lack of housing in Dunedin has impeded this aspect of the programme and the YTH has been able to find a long-term home for only one former resident so far.

It has applied for extensions for all its current residents.

“The main factor . . . has been finding somewhere sustainable for them to live in the community,” Ms Thomas said.

“When you’re 16 or 17, it’s extremely difficult, because property owners and managers aren’t keen for really young people to be signing rental agreements.”

Ms Thomas said the former living situations of the young people, unable to live with family for a variety of reasons, had usually involved overcrowding, sleeping on the floor or on a couch.

Young people who were couch-surfing were in “survival mode”.

“What they are thinking about is ‘am I going to have this bed tonight, am I going to be safe in it, and how am I going to eat’,” she said.

“The most laudable aspect of this is that these young people have been living like that, but have still been able to maintain going to school and courses.”

By contrast, the YTH was a stable and caring environment.

The young people in the house were typical teenagers, who were steadily gaining the skills to flat successfully, and there were “some really talented bakers” among them, Ms Thomas said.

The house was a flatting situation for the young people, who were generally good at self-management.

“They are really supportive of each other and they get along very well.”

Methodist Mission operations leader Sue Clarke said the YTH was a two-year pilot in conjunction with the Ministry of Social Development and was the first in New Zealand.

“We are delighted with the way it has started. The challenge is to find ways to help young people move on to the next stage of accommodation,” Ms Clarke said.

“We would love to talk to some property owners, or managers, who might be able to give some of our 17-year-olds a chance.”