A message from our Chief Changemakers
As the shadows of the pandemic fold into the background, the ramifications of sustained disconnection, entrenched poverty and an overwhelmed health and support system are being uncovered. Our decision not to close during the pandemic coincided with a huge expansion into the West, winning funding from the federal government, to help thousands of young people get back to school and work over the next 5 years. All culminating in a series of new Youth Hubs, new social enterprises, and the refurbishment of our premier service, The Living Room.
Staying true to our values as we continued delivering on the objectives set out in our Strategic Plan 2021-25. Through modern, good governance, the Board continued to guide our thinking, whilst our frontline changemakers delivering on our goals. Health inequity, mental health, family violence, substance addiction, unemployment and poor physical health have been our primary challenges to face. Our six service domains of mental health, physical health, homelessness, alcohol & drug addiction, jobs & skills, and social enterprise have all stepped up to deliver real change, real outcomes, for over 5,100 people and their families. We delivered our promise on amplifying the voice of lived experience and embedding the theory of self-determination into all of our services.
This year has been an incredible year for our team, and I am excited for the year ahead.
Ben Vasiliou, CEO
It felt like we faced “mission impossible” over the last twelve months, yet our team and supporters have achieved significant and lasting impact for our community within a uniquely harsh environment. Our pandemic response endured, knowing people who did not have a home could not stay home.
Our impact data in youth disadvantage gave us the opportunity to expand across Melbourne’s growing western suburbs with new services and facilities to tackle poverty and unemployment at its core. We also have growing social enterprise initiatives and new youth mental health outreach that is breaking new ground in turning lives around.
Many people partnered with us to achieve strong outcomes this year, and I thank everyone whose contribution has allowed our work to expand and dig deeper into complex problems before they become entrenched.
I thank our CEO, Ben Vasiliou, for his skill, tireless energy and enthusiasm; the courage and dedication of our entire team; and, my hard working colleagues on the Board of Directors.
Melanie Raymond OAM, Chair
The future in our sights
Throughout the year, Youth Projects has embarked on our most ambitious growth plan in our almost 40-year history to expand and deliver high impact supports to young people and people experiencing homelessness across more of Melbourne and into regional Victoria.
We announced a bold new plan to support a whopping 23,800 people in Melbourne by 2027; opened 3 new, state-of-the-art Youth Hubs across the West; expanded into 14 new communities; achieved top level cyber security accreditation; announced our fourth social enterprise café; and, undertook a multi-million dollar refurbishment of The Living Room to create a world-class, global standard for homelessness and community-led health services in the heart of Melbourne.
We are committed to working with our community to identify critical, key areas to support in both the social and economic recovery from the pandemic.
To enable long term sustainability and focus resources on services that lead to the greatest possible outcomes for young people and people experiencing homelessness, our work is continuously guided by a comprehensive outcomes and impact framework focussed on five core goals.
Social change, but strategic
How we fuel change
Every day of the year, our frontline warriors and changemakers are committed to breaking the cycle of disadvantage. We recruit a little differently, probably because we are a little different. For each and every role, we bring in people that have social justice in their blood and know what it takes to change the world. Our people get it. They can meet our clients where they are at, and engage with a level of understanding and empathy.
“THERE IS A REAL SENSE OF PURPOSE AND FOCUS WHILE BEING PROGRESSIVE, FUTURE-FOCUSSED AND STRENGTHS-BASED.”Frontline warrior at Youth Projects
Amplifying the voice of lived experience, through our people…
Recovering from the pandemic required a radical shift in the way we tackled youth unemployment and homelessness, to encourage aspiration and encourage opportunity.
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 thousands of young people across Melbourne were faced with this year.
Our youth-specialist outreach programs engages and connects at-risk young people aged 12 to 25 years to individualised housing, mental health, education, training, employment and crisis supports.
We meet young people where they are at, literally.
We create individualised mentoring and support plans and work with young people over the short-to-long term to overcome barriers and provide tailored support based on each young person’s goals and aspirations.
were experiencing mental health challenges
CONTACTS IN OUR YOUTH AOD PROGRAMS
WERE REFFERED FROM MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES
OF OUR YOUTH OUTREACH CLIENTS WERE UNDER 15 YEARS OLD
Despite the ongoing impacts of the pandemic and yo-yo’ing job markets, a seismic shift in the employment landscape and digital advancements have created an opportunity to start adopting innovative new ways to better prepare young people for sustainable social and economic participation.
young people who engaged in our employment programs
SECURED MEANGINGFUL EMPLOYMENT
PARTICIPATED IN EMPLOYABILITY SKILLS TRAINING
ENGAGED IN EDUCATION
FELT OUR PROGRAMS WERE STRENGTHS AND ASPIRATIONS BASED
WERE FROM CULTURALLY & LINGUISTICALLY DIVERSE BACKGROUNDS
ARE ABORIGINAL OR TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER
Over the past 5 years, Youth Projects has supported 2,160 young people into meaningful employment and education pathways and has contributed to decreasing the unemployment rate in Melbourne’s northwest region by 5.3%!
“I feel more productive, have a bigger sense of purpose, and now now my life has as clear structure to it.”
TJ was a university graduate, who found herself struggling to find an entry-level graduate role off the back of her studies. Through our Employability Skills Training program, she was able to get the encouragement and support needed to persevere into landing her dream role.
Creating opportunities for young people where they are at
Why advocacy by young people is important
Nurturing the next gen of changemakers
Youth Projects has a proud history of providing programs and services that respond to the unique needs of young people in the LGBTQI+ community. Here at Youth Projects, almost a third of our workforce identifies as being part of the LGBTQI+ community – so our work in this space is more than just work, it’s deeply meaningful to us.
As well as embedding more inclusive and LGBTQI+ frameworks across all of our programs, we have a range of LGBTQI+ specific programs available for young people across Victoria and are now recognised as a ‘Rainbow Ready Workplace’ by the Victorian Government.
In 2022, we provided cost-free LGBTQI+ Mental Health First Aid to 27 young people across Victoria; we piloted a pop-up sexual health clinic in Melbourne’s north to provide judgement-free access to health services; and, teamed up with ‘Kind is Cool’ to promote kindness and PRIDE amongst Australians whilst raising critical funds to support for young, LGBTQI+ people experiencing disadvantage and homelessness.
In the next year we’ll be heading regional to Bairnsdale, Ballarat, Bendigo (and beyond!) to deliver tailored responses to the challenges facing young, LGTBQI+ people in regional areas.
Earlier this year, we delivered our first cost-free Mental Health First Aid program to 27 young, LGBTQI+ people from right across Melbourne to equip participants with evidence-based skills and knowledge to spot the signs, have important conversations, support their peers to access critical mental health services and complete a Mental Health First Aid Australia accredited training.
“What I have learnt will help me get through life knowing I can make a difference by supporting those around me in the best possible way.”
Participants from the first program shared that their confidence in being able to effectively help someone with mental health problems increased from somewhat confident to extremely confident after completing the LGBTQI+ Mental Health First Aid training.
There was nothing little about The Little Social’s impact in 2022…
young people participated in our trainee program
of trainees continued into sustainable employment
coffees served at The Little Social cafes
income support avoided by helping young people into jobs
carbon offset across our cafes
of plastic avoided from landfill by using sustainable alternatives
There’s (another) new kid on the block
We’ve partnered with the Victorian Pride Centre to open our fourth social enterprise café in St Kilda in late 2022 with an important focus on embracing the goals and aspirations of LGBTIQ+ communities.
The Little Social at the Victorian Pride Centre will be much more than just coffee & food. It will open new pathways for young people to help recover from the pandemic, create job opportunities in a safe and supportive environment, and improve social connectedness and reduce social isolation for the community more broadly.
The Little Social will create a safe, inclusive, and social space for the rainbow and wider community to gather, collaborate and drive real change for the community.
We’ll also be launching ‘The Little Social Catering Co.’ in early 2023 to create more opportunities for young people in kitchen operations, back of house and the full range of pathways beyond customer-facing roles. Taking locally-sourced, seasonally inspired offerings and a slice of The Little Social to every corner of Melbourne – creating real social change along the way.
At The Living Room, people were presenting with more complex issues, having fallen through the cracks of a system under pressure during the pandemic.
An increasing number of people visiting The Living Room were presenting with more complex issues, largely due to highly vulnerable people unable to easily access or maintain housing or hotel accommodation, fleeing from family violence and falling through cracks in an over-burdened system.
At The Living Room, we experienced a three-fold increase in the number of referrals to family violence services over the past year.
Unfortunately, not all survivors of family violence are eligible for support from specialist family violence services and are more likely to sleeping rough or couch surfing as a result.
With a section of Melbourne’s most marginalised people finding the environment of crisis accommodation in hotels too challenging and distressing to navigate, the street was their last option.
Sadly, 1 in 3 people accessing The Living Room were experiencing unstable housing or primary homelessness.
INCREASE IN NEW PEOPLE ACCESSING THE LIVING ROOM
REFERRALS TO HOUSING SERVICES
PEOPLE PLACED INTO EMERGENCY ACCOMMODATION
DOCTORS & NURSES APPOINTMENTS
TIMES COUNSELLING WAS PROVIDED
INSTANCES OF CARE COORDIANTION
HARM REDUCTION PROVIDED
REFERRALS TO DENTAL SERVICES
COVID-19 VACCINATIONS PROVIDED TO PEOPLE ON THE STREETS
EPISODES OF DIRECT CARE
In early 2022, we launched a ‘Covid-19 Case Management’ initiative to not only support people experiencing homelessness to access Covid-19 vaccinations, but open discussions around their overall health and wellbeing.
People experiencing homelessness were impacted across all areas of their lives during the pandemic, from the immediate health concerns, right through to the social and economic impacts. Existing factors like poor mental health and hygiene, disrupted sleep patterns, substance use, and a lack of access to judgement free medical support exacerbated the lack of trust and confidence in services.
By working closely with individuals to address their overall health (and social) situation, our were able to rebuild trust and confidence to properly engage people with services and assist them to make informed decisions about their Covid-19 vaccination status, and overall health. Through a holistic case management model, individuals were able to access Covid-19 vaccinations and linked in with additional supports around health, housing, income, material aid and counselling.
Through our Covid-19 Case Management initiative, 107 people experiencing homelessness were able to readily access Covid-19 vaccinations.
But it’s more than just the immediate situation. It’s about the whole person.
A key driver of wellbeing and resilience is social connectedness. It’s a vital part of services accessible through The Living Room, ensuring people maintain social connectedness with each other, with our team, with family, and with friends. It goes deeper than that though, it’s about a greater sense of belonging, and creating a space that feels safe enough to be home.
IT’S MORE THAN JUST SERVICES, TO ME it’s being able to come to a place that feels like home.
MEALS AND FOOD PARCELS SHARED
SHOWERS TAKEN BY PEOPLE SLEEPING ROUGH
TIMES PRACTICAL ASSISTANCE WAS PROVIDED
LOADS OF LAUNDRY
TIMES MOBILES WERE CHARGED AND CALLS MADE TO STAY CONNECTED
COMPUTER SESSIONS TO HELP WITH SERVICE NAVIGATION AND JOB HUNTING
Flipping the role from client to frontline worker, Ellias’ road was not an easy or quick one. After hitting an all-time low, overcoming a toxic relationship with drugs, Ellias is now using his lived experience to help others overcome their situations at The Living Room.
“I wanted to be in a place where I was happy and healthy to give people support, like the support that was given to me.”
A judgement free approach to harm reduction
We lead best practice in a fixed site and mobile (both foot-based and vehicle) assertive outreach through needle syringe exchange programs, proactive overdose response initiatives, drug safety education, counselling, support, education, and referrals for people enduring alcohol and other drug dependencies.
Initiatives like the Proactive Overdose Response Initiative (P.O.R.I) and Needle Syringe Programs (NSPs) continued to make considerable ground in raising awareness of harm minimisation and prevention activities throughout the year – not just changing lives but saving lives.
PLUS drug and overdose education, practical assistance, pharmacotherapy, relapse prevention, health promotion, needle syringe program information and referrals into health services at The Living Room.
INTERNATIONAL RESEARCH SHOWS THAT FOR EVERY $1 INVESTED IN HARM REDUCTION SERVICES, $27 IS RETURNED IN COST SAVINGS TO THE HEALTH SYSTEM AND WIDER ECONOMY.
Giving The Living Room the makeover it deserves, transforming homelessness services in the heart of Melbourne.
Having been at the heart of Melbourne’s CBD community for 20 years, The Living Room has long been highly regarded as a unique and effective primary health service and drop-in centre for people experiencing homelessness since first opening in 2002. It is a service that has created immeasurable social and economic impact, and most importantly, has supported thousands of people during their darkest hours.
So, we set out to give The Living Room the makeover it deserves, transforming homelessness services in the heart of Melbourne – the design, functionality and service capabilities setting a new global standard and quality benchmark for helping, not hindering, the vulnerable.
What’s provided at The Living Room not only makes sense for social return, but so too, a positive economic return. Early intervention and crisis support services alleviates the stresses on an overburdened health system and saves the economy millions of dollars by intervening before someone needs to lean on complex, public systems
The multi-million dollar refurbishment of The Living Room signifies a genuine game-changer for homelessness services in Melbourne and sets a new standard for community led health initiatives, globally. The Living Room is already world-class in service delivery, and now the physical environment will match our modern approach.