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Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System

Case study:

Youth foyers

Youth foyers are integrated support services designed to address the gap in the provision of housing for young people experiencing or at risk of homelessness. Rather than focusing solely on providing emergency housing and crisis support, they make building independent living skills, relationships, social connections a priority, along with community re‑integration, which includes linking young people back into education and employment opportunities.

Participants are typically between 16 and 24 years old and they are supported for a period of up to 2–3 years. This allows them to achieve a sense of security and engage in the program. The program recognises that this is a critical development period for young people and if it is disrupted, there can be long‑term consequences for their ability to lead a contributing life.

Multiple models of youth foyers exist in Australia and have been developed by individual agencies and government departments. There are several types of youth foyers in Victoria, including those delivered by the Melbourne City Mission and Education First Youth Foyers.

Melbourne City Mission youth foyers

The Melbourne City Mission youth foyer model, funded by the Victorian Government, delivers integrated housing and wellbeing supports. Its capacity ranges from 6 to 21 beds across three facilities. Each youth foyer has self‑contained accommodation. Youth foyer staff work with residents to develop care plans that take all of an individual’s needs into account and that lead into education and/or employment focused programs.

Wayne Merritt, General Manager, Homelessness, Justice and Family Services at Melbourne City Mission said the youth foyer model helps young people to reduce their dependence on social services gradually.

We have a high tolerance to be able to support and accommodate young people with multiple and complex needs—the model is designed to provide supported housing and goal orientated programs that leads into education and/or employment focussed programs, and our work is underpinned by our Trauma Informed Healing Oriented framework, which ensure a therapeutic, healing approach to each individual.

Education First Youth Foyers

Education First Youth Foyers are located within TAFE campuses at three locations in Victoria, with each site able to accommodate 40 young people. They are funded by the Victorian Government and are delivered in partnership with housing providers and youth support partners.

The Education First Youth Foyer model, established by the Brotherhood of St Laurence and Launch Housing in Victoria, is designed for young people seeking education and employment opportunities. The aim is to break down the structural barriers preventing them from engaging with these opportunities.

Professor Shelley Mallett, Director, Research and Policy Centre, Brotherhood of St Laurence, noted the model looks at young people’s talents, potential and aspirations, rather than focusing on barriers and problems.

We developed a model based on what we call the capabilities approach and advantage thinking, which looked at realigning the effort around young people around building their opportunities, resources and networks to live lives that they really want to value and to connect them to education, employment and training to enable them to do that.

Source: RCVMHS meeting with Wayne Merritt, 30 September 2020; Inquiry into Homelessness in Victoria, Transcript, 23 June 2020; Foyer Foundation, How Foyers Work, [accessed 21 November 2020]; Melbourne City Mission, Accommodation, [accessed 21 November 2020]; Brotherhood of St Laurence, Education First Youth Foyers, [accessed 21 November 2020].