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Homelessness is our hidden crisis

Youth homelessness is on the rise nationally and Gympie is no exception.
Youth homelessness is on the rise nationally and Gympie is no exception. Tanya Easterby

NATIONAL Youth Week celebrates Australia's younger generation but beneath the youthful exuberance lies a disturbing problem of homelessness.

Gympie Community Action Youth Service spokesman David Allard said youth homelessness was a problem spinning out of control.

Nationally, statistics reveal 44,083 are homeless and of this number, 43% are under the age of 25.

"The majority of these young people are entering adulthood - most are aged between 16-21," Mr Allard said.

Mr Allard believes youth homelessness is largely hidden and he wants to use National Youth Week to highlight the problem.

"These national figures filter right down to Gympie," he said.

Many homeless youth are sleeping on the street or what Mr Allard describes as "couch surfing".

Coach surfing is when homeless youth move about relying on friend and relatives for accommodation.

"The problem remains hidden this way," Mr Allard said.

The causes for youth homelessness are complex but fuelled by a soaring cost of housing and difficulty renting.

"It's harder for a young person to find a rental property because they often get painted with the same brush," Mr Allard said.

Community Action Youth Service works on the frontline of the problem but is limited in the assistance it can provide.

Temporary accommodation is available for up to 17 young people at any given time.

When accommodation is not available, Mr Allard said homeless swags were handed out. Homeless swags consist of a tent, sleeping bag and blankets.

"It's something we get criticised for but it's better than nothing," he said.

Ultimately, Mr Allard would like to see a refuge centre in Gympie for those aged under 18.

"There's a high demand for this age group and an old-fashioned refuge with a worker on site would offer a safe place for people to go," he said.

Topics:  homelessness national youth week

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