Turning the tables on youth homelessness
For CEO Andrew Anderson of the youth support group formerly known as United Synergies headquartered in Tewantin, the full COVID-19 pandemic impact hit home when he sat down to eat in a local restaurant.
Mr Anderson, whose newly rebranded Youturn Youth Support has relaunched in national Homelessness Week, said while it was lovely to have a table surrounded by plenty of social distancing, the empty spaces demonstrated just why his service has never been busier.
"In our Sunshine Coast region tourism, retail and hospitality is a massive piece of our economy," Mr Anderson said.
"It must be tough for the restaurateurs to make a couple of dollars, when they've only got less than half the tables in the restaurant available.
"That absolutely affects young people's employment … people are living in their cars, are couch surfing," he said.
Mr Anderson said there has been "a marked increase in people that come and ask for emergency relief".
"That's people who come in and say 'I need a bit of help for a couple of meals' or 'hey, I can't pay my car rego and that means I can't get to work'.
"People think of the Sunshine Coast as the all the beaches and the high life, but there is certainly a number of young people who live pay cheque to pay cheque.
"And when those pay cheques fall over for a couple of weeks, or heaven forbid a couple of months, it really is tough," he said.
When Youturn started in Noosa more than 30 years the organisation helped six homeless youth all up.
"For the last year we supported over 6000 across our homelessness, child safety and suicide prevention areas," Mr Anderson said.
That includes centres down to Caboolture and up to Bundaberg plus a Toowoomba service.
"This rebranding relates to how organisations are always looking at themselves and asking how does that name connect with the young people we look after and all the other stakeholders," he said.
'The big groundswell of information was 'hey, you guys are really based on individual solutions', so that's the 'you' bit.
"And people are usually coming to us for a change of direction, so 'turn' is the directional word that really was obvious," Mr Anderson said.
He said this new chapter was about recommitting to the local community.
"We're now into child support and suicide prevention, but it was about going out to the community and saying 'we are still alive and strong in homelessness sector," Mr Anderson said.
"We're announcing three very significant Youturn homelessness issues … partnering, investing and strengthening our community."
He said with support from the State Government's Unite and Recover stimulus package, the Noosa Council has committed $60,000 to upgrading Youturn's laundry, shower and toilet facilities used by people at risk, the vulnerable and homeless in our community.
"For these people it's absolutely lovely to have that nice warm shower and to wash your clothes and a lot of those things we take for granted," Mr Anderson said.
The investing component is is Youturn "reaching into our pockets" to provide $400,000 capital new affordable housing for young people in Toowoomba.
"This is absolutely significant for a small not-for-profit like us, and we're excited by it," Mr Anderson said.
He said the third part of Youturn's commitment was a fundraising campaign called Big Heart's for Tiny Homes.
"It's about raising money to buy tiny homes to house those young people in that transitional period on the Sunshine Coast.
"It's a tough time to be asking people to dip into the pockets, but we're trying to raise $100,000 to buy one of these tiny homes before Christmas," he said.
Anyone wishing to support Youturn can go to its website for details.