February 3, 2021
The South Burnett’s only emergency accommodation for young people could close if a request for $150,000 in funding from the State Government is not approved urgently.
South Burnett CTC’s Youth Hostel in Kingaroy provides accommodation for people aged from 16-21 who are homeless but who are not in the residential care system with the Department of Child Safety.
It provided 1823 bed nights during the past 12 months.
The hostel is funded to provide five beds every night, but currently operates six; the next nearest hostels are in Gympie and Toowoomba.
Team Leader Nick Krauksts said CTC put in an urgent request for extra funding last September through the regular departmental channels.
They believe their request was then forwarded to then-Housing Minister Mick de Brenni.
With the Cabinet reshuffle in November, responsibility now lies with Minister Leeanne Enoch.
But since then they have heard nothing …
Nick said the extra funding was necessary to provide live-in supervision from 5:00pm to 9:00am at the hostel.
For the past seven years, this position – which is a paid role at similar hostels in other parts of Queensland – has been filled by a volunteer.
Unfortunately for CTC, and the young people needing the hostel, the volunteer retired last year and has since moved to the United States.
Not only did he have the skills and experience to supervise the young people, but he also looked after the practical side of running the hostel, such as shopping.
After he left, CTC advertised for a replacement volunteer to fill the role, but none of the applicants had the unusual skillset – experience, training and patience – required.
This means the hostel has had to turn away some young people recently and decline referrals from other agencies.
“For example, we can’t accept people who are on bail at the moment, which is putting pressure on other services as well,” Nick said.
But it would be wrong to think all the young people at the hostel are in trouble with the justice system.
Many are homeless for reasons outside their control, including being forced to leave home.
Some have been couch-surfing with friends, but this cannot continue forever.
“A lot of the young people we deal with come from bad situations,” hostel manager Tom Martin said. “They are in crisis.”
The Youth Hostel provides stability for its residents, encouraging them to attend school, seek employment and move into their own accommodation.
They learn life skills such as how to live in a group house and share chores, or if in need of greater assistance are referred to other services which deal with issues such as sexual assault.
CTC works with the young people to develop a care plan to help them achieve their goals.
And it appears to work … with many moving out into their own rentals after staying at the hostel.
Nick does not understand why the overnight role – which the State Government funds at other hostels – cannot be funded in Kingaroy.
He pointed out the volunteer had been saving the State Government hundreds of thousands of dollars over the past seven years.
CTC has applied for $150,000 but estimates the total cost of role will be about $163,000 – which CTC funds will top up – to cover on-costs as well as wages, superannuation and a sleepover allowance.
Young people with an income are charged $210 a fortnight which covers their food, water, electricity, internet, bedding and toiletries.
“If they don’t have an income, we don’t charge anything until they get an income, and it is not backdated,” Nick said.
“The goal is to get them housed, to provide a safe roof over their heads.”
As well as accommodation, CTC’s specialist homeless service also provides support for young people at risk of being homeless.
This would also disappear if the program ceased.
Also disappearing would be the advice CTC provides informally to older homeless people in the area which points them in the right direction to get assistance.
The nearest formal Housing Service Centre which can provide the same information is in Maryborough.
“If we can’t sustain the level of funding, who will pick up the pieces?” Nick asked.
“It is going to put a lot of pressure on other services – and they will end up asking the State Government for more funding themselves.”
So what is the position right now?
“It’s getting pretty bad,” Nick said. “We’re rejecting referrals and having to eject people when they get too difficult, which we wouldn’t do if we had an adult presence.”
Tom stressed that CTC does not want to evict people.
“It’s a big deal for us,” he said. “A good outcome for us is when someone asks us for help because they are moving into their own place.”
- External link: CTC Youth Hostel