Page 844 - Week 03 - Wednesday, 9 April 2014

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are struggling to maintain that tenancy, rather than ending up on the homelessness queue, so to speak. So these are very important services.

The introduction of FirstPoint, which operates a central intake system, has enabled the Community Services Directorate to have a concentration of data to understand the demand for homelessness services better than ever before. That has been very useful internally. More importantly, from a client point of view, it means that people can now just ring up one place when they need homelessness support rather than perhaps having to ring around to a series of shelters, trying to find out if there is a bed that night. They can just ring the FirstPoint contact number and get the provision of services and be directed in the right direction rather than having to run around themselves.

The street to home program, which is operated by St Vincent de Paul, is a unique assertive outreach model that is directly targeted at rough sleepers. What we saw in the last census was a fall in the number of rough sleepers in the ACT, from around 50 to around 29. It is still too many, of course, but what has been identified is that those people who are rough sleepers are particularly hard to engage from a service outreach point of view. So this program is specifically targeted at going out and finding people on the street and seeking to give them assistance.

These are the sort of things that have been funded under the partnership agreement and now will be able to continue.

MADAM SPEAKER: A supplementary question, Mr Gentleman.

MR GENTLEMAN: Minister, what have you heard from youth homeless advocates on their personal stories here in Canberra?

MR RATTENBURY: It is a good reminder from Mr Gentleman that today is Youth Homelessness Matters Day. I know quite a few members of the Assembly were present at the event in the reception room at lunchtime organised by the Youth Coalition to focus on youth homelessness.

What the figures show is that around 50 per cent of people accessing homelessness services in the ACT are under the age of 25. For young people, homelessness can mean a range of things. It can mean spending time in a shelter; it can mean couch surfing with mates or perhaps a brother or a relative. We heard a story today; a young lady got up and told her story and her experience of homelessness. It was very brave, I think, for someone to get up and share their personal stories in that way. It gave people at the event a real insight into an experience that, certainly for the MLAs, most of us have had the good fortune not to experience.

She told her story, that with the passing of her mother she ended up in a bit of a downward spiral and was having all sorts of problems, but through the provision of supported services, particularly the youth accommodation network, she had been able to get back on her feet. She had both accommodation and supporting services. She is now back studying and has a full-time job. Laura told her story to the whole audience. There were probably 100 or so people in the room.

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