Potential hostel closure will force youth into tents, swags
Youth at risk are facing sleeping in tents and swags if vital funding isn't secured for the South Burnett's youth hostel.
Youth workers and South Burnett CTC officials are calling on government support to save their youth hostel, which has been a life line to Burnett youths for the past 20 years.
If immediate action isn't taken, instead of offering at risk youth a safe place to stay, youth workers will instead be forced to hand out tents and swags and point towards the nearest free campground.
With no other homeless services in the region, the closure of what has provided young people in the region a roof over their head since 2001, will have devastating flow on effects throughout the community.
South Burnett CTC youth hostel manager Tom Martin said the hostel shutting down was a frightening possibility.
"If the youth hostel closes we are going to have a lot of young people falling through the cracks, living in places that are unsafe," Mr Martin said.
"There are no other services out here for homeless, no housing service centre and no other emergency accommodation.
"There is already a lot of pressure on the area for housing and if the hostel can't continue, that pressure will increase."
For the past seven years, the hostel has had a full-time in-house volunteer who managed the hostel after hours, allowing for around the clock care for youth with complex issues.
He recently retired leaving behind an irreplaceable position without government funding.
Without an after hours youth worker, CTC are already having to turn away referrals due to their complexity and the lack of support available - despite not being full.
The hostel is funded for five beds and in the last financial year 26 people accessed the service for a combined total of 1823 nights of accommodation.
In the past three years 123 people accessed the service for a combined total of 5800 bed nights.
Since about 2012, a total of 13700 nights of accommodation have been provided to young people in the South Burnett through the service.
CTC youth services team leader Nick Krauksts said they generally had the capacity to help people with more complex behaviours, however that was no longer the case.
"Now that our volunteer has left we are in a pickle. He was there for seven years and because he was unpaid, now that he has left the government hasn't caught on," Mr Krauksts said.
"The government didn't see any need to fund us for more than one staff member and now that our volunteer has left we are turning down referrals we never would of turned down because we don't think we can provide adequate support to some people when there isn't an adult there overnight.
"Other services are feeling the strain as well because they know we can't necessarily say yes to things we used to and usually if we are that last call that means those kids, and we have been in this situation before, when we say no it means those kids are given a swag and tent and taken to a free campsite.
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South Burnett CTC sent a request for additional funding in September to the Department of Communities, Housing and Digital Technologies.
If funding isn't granted, CTC are left with two options, according to Mr Krauksts.
"At this stage it comes down to if our request for extra funding isn't granted we got two options to consider, we close the hostel removing that average of five people a night that are housed and the nearest hostel is Toowoomba," he said.
"The second option is to renegotiate with the department what we do with the hostel, which would mean permanently only taking low risk clients, not taking any clients with complex mental health issues or people with drug or alcohol issues, which usually with an adult presence we take on.
"We have taken people who are suicidal because you have someone to monitor them and can put in a good safety plan and when you don't have a staff member or volunteer overnight you just can't be confident you can keep them safe.
"Another issue is we accept people being bailed to the hostel. That won't be an option, which will put pressure on the local police."
The youth hostel is far more than just crises accommodation.
People that use the service get access to all of the other support services available through CTC.
It helps them negotiate whatever issues are arising in their life, prepares them to find accommodation or return to family and teaches invaluable them life skills.
Mr Martin said he saw positive growth in people in the hostel almost every day.
"When a young person comes into the hostel they get the support of CTC, it's not just somewhere to live, we go the extra mile as a service," he said.
"I see positive growth most days. Obviously there are times when a young person has a setback but you try and talk and help them understand that's life, you won't have wins everyday and to focus on the positives.
"It can be something as simple as them getting out of bed and having breakfast sorted by the time I walk through the door. The little things like they are embracing chances not just getting frustrated and angry."
The South Burnett rental market is already flooded resulting in increased homelessness throughout the region.
Increased homelessness has several flow on effects throughout the community such as increased crime, increased drug use and the increase of tents situated throughout the region.
Although it's not as visible in the South Burnett as it's in the cities, Mr Krauksts said secret homelessness is a big problem in the region.
"There is quite a bit of secret homelessness, people are couch surfing or are in unsafe or overcrowded situations, we are seeing a lot of that in young people," he said.
"I think we are going to have a lot of kids sleeping rough if it gets to the point where we are going to have to shut down the hostel or limit our capacity on what sort of complexities we can take.
"There isn't much capacity at other hostels so it's really important for the South Burnett and for the safety of the young people who are homeless but also the general community.
"My biggest fear is it gets to the point where we are giving out swags and tents to kids who are 16 or 17 and saying sorry this is all we can help you with."