Skip to content
Home » Our Impact in 2021

Our Impact in 2021

A message from our Chair, Melanie Raymond, OAM.

We knew the demands of public health orders would continue putting pressure on people experiencing homelessness in 2021 – it’s hard to stay at home if you are homeless.

This year I reflect on the exceptional outcomes achieved by Youth Projects during some the worst of circumstances our communities have ever faced.

When it comes to achieving genuine social impact, the Youth Projects team are second to none. Our outcomes show what real social change looks like, at the very frontline where it’s felt the most.

A message from our CEO, Ben Vasiliou.

In the last year, we’ve witnessed thousands of young people hit hard by the pandemic, socially isolated, often the first to have hours cut or laid off work completely and considerable wait times to access mental health supports. We’ve seen substance use on the rise and critical homelessness services continuing to shut their doors during lockdowns. The demand on our services spiked quicker than we’ve ever experienced at Youth Projects, so we continued to scale up to support those who needed us most.

Our Story
of Impact

Everything we do at Youth Projects is guided by our theory of change, Our story of impact.

A story of impact that enables young people and people experiencing homelessness to…

Have improved health...    Participate in meaningful employment...    Feel a greater sense of belonging, safety and security...   A decreased risk of homelessness...   And, live longer lives.

In the shadows of the pandemic during 2021, there was another crisis sweeping across Melbourne….

Young people’s wellbeing has been severely impacted by the pandemic and constant lockdowns – their ability to carry out daily activities and to cope with stress has shown a continued decline since 2020. 

Many young people are just entering the workforce, moving out of home, and forming new relationships – key milestones that have been disrupted. Young people who otherwise managed their mental health by hitting the gym, seeing friends and keeping themselves busy, have been presenting to us with significant substance abuse issues, self-harming behaviours and even psychosis.

Continuous social isolation, severe impacts on individuals’ mental health, hours at work cut and jobs lost, increased substance use and rising homelessness are the crisis points hundreds of young people across Melbourne’s north are facing.

Reports of unstable housing in our youth specialist services spiked significantly between July and September 2020 and again between January and March 2021.

The sad reality is that many young people have fallen between the cracks in the service system during the pandemic, and to add to this perfect storm, waitlists have blown out.

1 in 4

young people were living
in unstable housing

Referrals to AOD
Increase in referrals to AOD services for 18-25 year olds
Referrals from Mental Health
Increase in referrals from Mental Health Services
Drugs & Alcohol
Youth alcohol and other drug services contacts
Assertive Outreach
Young people required assertive outreach services
Specialist Housing Support
Young people required specialist housing support
Wellbeing Program
Young people participated in a pilot wellbeing program

We’ve taken YHOP to Moreland

Increased AOD service capacity

Piloted a new in-school wellbeing program

Knowing what was ahead, we used 2021 to build young people’s capacity and focus on getting them ready to launch into recovering job markets.


Aiden initially participated in our Employability Skills Training program. After successfully completing both Blocks in the program, Aiden was keen to work with our Disability Employment Services team to secure meaningful employment and find an employer that would understand his Autism and enable him to pursue a real career based on his strengths.

Meaningful Employment
Secured meaningful employment
Participated in Skills Training
Participated in Employability skills training
Engaged in Education
Engaged in Education
Job or Education Placement
of young people achieved a job or education placement
Skills Training
Completed employability skills training
Education Pathways
Of Education pathways were Certificate III or higher

We also saw a significant need for young people to obtain their licence – getting them to and from work reliably.

Not only to build independence, but also reduce barriers to employment by getting young people to and from work reliably, without the reliance on poor public transport infrastructure across Melbourne’s north and outer suburbs.

20 young people have already accessed lessons with our qualified driving instructor AND Youth Worker.

We increased our capacity to work with 3 times more young people, every 3-weeks across inner and northern Melbourne.

Our Employability Skills Training has evolved into a flexible, strengths-based program that teaches young people how to be adaptable in evolving and highly competitive job markets, develop their strengths and skills, prepare for or to re-enter meaningful employment and now includes regular industry guests, just like Bec. Almost 80% of young people successfully completed the program and moved into a job in 2021.

Our employability skills training program outperforms the national averages for engagement and efficiency by 16.5%

Our commitment to culturally diverse and newly arrived young people remained unyielded this year – multilingual youth coaches recruited to better support young people from diverse backgrounds.


Having only arrived in Australia in 2019 as a refugee, Letisya knew very little English and was wondering where to even begin starting her new life in an entirely new country. We matched her with one of our youth coaches who speaks fluent Arabic and set out to support her journey.

Letisya has since gone on to complete 2 certificate qualifications during lockdown, has almost finished a Hairdressing course, has started a Certificate IV in IT and is ready to launch in the recovering job market. This is her story.

The Little Social

Built on years of success from Good2Go, we opened 2 new, highly successful social enterprise cafés at Rosanna and the Alfred Hospital, and re-launched our iconic Hosier Lane café as The Little Social. All during the peak of lockdowns.

Boasting a fresh, new experience for customers across three bespoke and socially conscious cafes, The Little Social focusses on a more collaborative and integrated approach to social enterprise at Youth Projects.  We’ve introduced additional layers of holistic, high impact support through other Youth Projects services and re-launched a new trainee program to support 8 times more young people annually.

Our innovative, new trainee program is designed to support young people through 4-week and 12-month programs to build self-confidence, gain key employability skills and genuine work experience in a supportive environment, and attain a Certificate III in Hospitality. Here4Hospitality is an additional training program designed for young people living with varied abilities in collaboration with our Disability Employment Services.

The expansion of business has also increased our capacity to provide pay-it-forwards, material and food support to people experiencing homelessness via The Living Room.

Since opening our first The Little Social café in November 2020, we’ve been a little busy…


new cafes opened and achieved financial sustainability


new jobs created including 6 young people and 3 former trainees

more than


coffees and meals served to frontline healthcare workers


profits re-invested back into the living room homelessness services


carbon offset across operations


of plastic avoided from landfill by using sustainable alternatives


It makes such a difference to be working in a workplace where I feel supported. This job has really kept me going during a tough time.

As her 4-week trainee program came to an end, Courtney scored an ongoing position at The Little Social, which has provided her a solid foundation of employment while she pursues studies in Youth Work to help other young people in similar positions to where she was. This is her story.

To maintain our holistic model, profits from The Little Social are re-invested back into critical homelessness services at The Living Room.

Meanwhile, down in Melbourne’s CBD we ensured people had a safe and accessible place to access health and social services while others opened and closed….

At The Living Room, we welcomed 16,431 client visits and provided access to basic human necessities 35,310 times.

Doctors & Nurses
Doctor & Nurse Appointments
Times counselling was provided
Direct Care
Episodes of direct care
Care Coordination
Instances of care coordination

Kris’s Story

Kris was reluctant to see medical staff and had not seen a doctor for ages out of sheer fear that they would judge Kris for being transgender. That was, until Kris met our night nurses.

After Kris became really unwell for an abscess that required emergency treatment, they began regularly visiting The Living Room for dressings changes. As the walls came down and Kris began to trust our team, they addressed other significant health issues and now feel very comfortable accessing health services for the first time in a very long time.

During the lockdowns, The Living Room became one of the few services to continuously keep its doors open to support people sleeping rough in Melbourne’s CBD. We played a vital role in supporting people, keeping them informed on vital health messages and advocating for access to safe and secure accommodation.

One of the reasons we exist is to ensure people feel a greater sense of belonging, security and safety whilst decreasing their risk of falling back into homelessness. And it starts with a home….

But, it’s more than just the immediate situation.

Meals Shared
Meals and food parcels shared
Showers taken by people sleeping rough
Clothing Provided
Items of clothing provided for people doing it tough
Loads of laundry
Phone Calls
Phone calls made by clients to stay connected
Computer Sessions
Computers sessions to help with service navigation and job hunting

But there were two more crises impacting our community that could be prevented.

Hepatitis can’t wait

In recent years, treatment uptake for Hepatitis C has been declining in Victoria and is well behind the National Hepatitis C Strategy’s target of 65% treatment uptake, and 50% treatment uptake for Hepatitis B by 2022. Only 23.1% of those living with Hepatitis B in Victoria are currently engaged in care.

So, we set ourselves a target to screen all new service users by the end of 2021 and for those who need to, engage them with care.

Accidental overdose in Victoria

Youth Projects has been at the forefront of harm reduction and minimisation since the early 1990s. But recently, more lives are being lost to accidental overdose than to the road toll each year in Victoria.  This is how education, safe use promotion, overdose awareness training and peer support programs are reducing fatal overdose in Victoria.

We know that early intervention and preventing harm is far more effective in reducing long-term, negative impacts on people.

Brief Interventions
Brief interventions by our peer support team
Overdose Response
Individuals completed overdose response training
Opioid Replacement
People on opioid replacement therapies
Needle Syringe
Contacts in our needle syringe programs

All of this in addition to our usual drug and overdose education, practical assistance, pharmacotherapy, relapse prevention, health promotion, needle syringe program information and referrals into health services at The Living Room.


But we must not will not stop there –

we will keep going.

By the end of 2021, Youth Projects will have supported over 10,000 young people and people experiencing homelessness since we were first established.

By 2030, we’re aiming to support 3 times more young people and people experiencing homelessness.

But we can’t do it alone…