The development of youth supported accommodation services commenced in the mid 1970's in response to the growing number of young people who were without care or who were leaving or running away from government care. The youth housing movement saw its primary aims were to expose the injustices faced by homeless young people and to work to improve the standards of living of this group of people. It came from a rights perspective - not blaming the individual, a particular recognition that inequality is structurally determined, a focus on the structural causes of homelessness, a rejection of band aid approaches, a rejection of control, a rejection of institutional responses to homelessness, a belief in people's participation and empowerment, and a belief that social change is necessary and possible. It is in this context that Southern Youth and Family Services was formed.
Southern Youth and Family Services recognises and supports the basic rights of all individuals. The particular philosophy that underpins the work of the Organisation incorporates the principles in the UN declaration of the rights of the child. The Organisation applies these principles to children, adolescents and young adults.
We believe that children, adolescents and young adults regardless of race, language, gender, class, sexual preference, disability, religion, political or other opinion have the right to:
- Grow up in a healthy and supportive environment- free and with dignity.
- Secure, affordable housing.
- Adequate and secure income.
- Employment and freedom from economic exploitation.
- Free education.
- Protection from cruelty, all forms of abuse and neglect and safety.
- Health care.
- Appropriate care if disabled in any way.
- Family contact, care and support.
- Comfort and appropriate care.
- Equal opportunities to reach their full potential.
- Fair and just treatment.
- Participate in community life.
- Opportunities to be responsible and useful.
- Preserve own identity.
- Traditional and/or cultural beliefs, enjoyment of their own culture, use of their own language, practise their religion.
- Freedom of choice, expression and freedom of information.
- Rest and leisure.
- Community support structures.
The Organisation also respects the rights of parents, family members, legal guardians and other carers. We recognise the primary responsibility of parents, carers or legal guardians for the upbringing of the child and adolescent. We recognise the difficulties, complexities and responsibilities of family relationships and believe that appropriate assistance and support should be provided.
The Organisation acknowledges that along with these rights come responsibilities. It is essential that individuals have the opportunity to learn about and accept their responsibilities. Part of the work carried out by the Organisation involves the provision of various forms of support, which enhance the opportunities for this development.
The Organisation believesthat the causes of youth homelessness are complex and that they are based in the structural inequities and inequalities that exist in this country. These include the high incidence of poverty, the inadequate government benefits, the low youth wages, the high levels of youth and general unemployment, discrimination, the shortage of affordable and appropriate housing options and a lack of support services. This understanding leads the Organisation to work towards structural changes that will improve the quality of life for children, adolescents and young people. With this as our vision, we place emphasis on community and policy development, advocacy, community education and lobbying to ensure young people have access to:
Secure, affordable and individual housing.
- Employment, education, training.
- Secure and adequate income.
- Appropriate support services.
- Clothing and food.
- Adequate health care.
We recognise that young people, in particular homeless young people, are without effective economic, legal, social and political power within our society. We also recognise the valuable contribution young people can make to their community. For this reason, we encourage the participation and empowerment of young people by supporting them in making informed choices about their lives.
This philosophy requires the work of the Organisation to be carried out in a coordinated and holistic manner with all those involved including other government departments, community agencies and family members, guardians and individuals. This Organisation has chosen the provision of supported accommodation and associated support services (such as advocacy, referral, information) for young people and their families and working with a community development focus, as the means to achieve the aims and objectives derived from this philosophy.