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"Why ending youth homelessness matters"
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"Why ending youth homelessness matters"

Francis VenturaHomelessness is a reality for thousands of Australian youth, a situation that Francis Ventura, 23, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Australia, describes as a ‘scourge’ that demands public awareness and political action.

While considering society’s challenge to end youth homelessness, it is important to keep the words of late South African former President Nelson Mandela in mind: ‘There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.’

Youth homelessness is a real issue that is required to be addressed by the community as a whole. It is more than simply a policy challenge. It is more than just a case of morality or a philosophical question about the role of government. It is definitely a lot more than just facts and figures on a piece of paper. It is a grave injustice being suffered by the most vulnerable members of the Australian community.

This is something which goes to the core of humanity, the very fabric of our being.

When I was younger, I witnessed domestic violence and experienced severe mental health issues. But I always considered myself fortunate, since I had a loving mother who worked tirelessly to provide a roof over my head. This is sadly not the case for thousands of others.

Unfortunately, 26,000 Australian youth on any given night will go without a safe bed of their own, an astonishingly high number that is completely unacceptable. The Lighthouse Foundation says that as a cohort, young people aged 12 to 18 are experiencing homelessness the most, with around 45 per cent of those requiring specialist homelessness services being under 18 years of age.

Having travelled across the country as part of my activism, from Mildura in regional Victoria to Kununurra in the West Australian Kimberley region, from Melbourne’s inner-city to the outskirts of western Sydney, I have seen first-hand the negative impact this has on a child’s development and social inclusion more generally. Homelessness increases a young person’s likelihood of mental health problems, unemployment and access with the criminal justice system, both present and longer term.

On Wednesday the 9th of April, it will be Youth Homelessness Matters Day, an initiative of the National Youth Coalition for Housing which aims to raise popular awareness about the scourge so that our political representatives heed the message that we demand action.

Australians can support the cause by liking the Facebook page, sharing posts with their friends on social media and checking out events being run in their local area on the website http://www.youthhomelessnessmatters.net/

I’d urge people who know someone that suffered homelessness at some stage of their life to ask them about the experience. I’m sure their story, while demonstrating their bravery and courage, will be confronting and difficult to imagine, but it will provide a personal understanding of the problem and reinforce the urgency of ending it.

A child’s right to a safe and loving home would be accepted by people across the political spectrum. Having achieved acceptance of this basic principle, let’s turn it into action and actually ensure that all young people have the start in life that they so dearly deserve. This would require a combined effort involving government, the community and business.

Our decision, whether to do nothing and thus be implicit in the injustice of youth homelessness, or to be bold and end this blight once and for all, will be a defining choice. Let’s hope the community makes the right decision.

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About me:

G’day! My name is Francis Ventura. I am currently an Assistant Editor of yourcommonwealth.org,  the Victorian representative on the Australian Youth Forum Steering Committee, and am serving as an Ambassador for Youth Homelessness Matters Day 2014.

As Melbourne is the sporting capital of the nation, I have a keen interest in cricket and Australian Rules football. I also love exploring Australia’s beautiful environment. After my studies I would like to dedicate my life to human rights, with a focus on protecting civilians living in war zones or under totalitarian regimes.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/

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