At the end of 2019, Sam Jelley was couch-surfing, moving between friends’ homes. He had a lot going on in his life.
He was 19, medically transitioning to a trans man, his relationship with his parents was strained and he was trying to study for a psychology degree at Deakin University. The following year, Mr Jelley moved into the Holmesglen TAFE Education First Youth Foyer, one of three foyers operating at TAFE campuses in Glen Waverley, Broadmeadows and Shepparton.
The foyers are for people aged 16 to 24 who want to study but can’t live at home, and are at risk of homelessness.
As part of a “deal”, residents agree to stay studying in exchange for heavily subsidised accommodation and support for up to two years.
“Having foyer be a space where I could continue that transition in a safe place where staff are pretty well-educated on that kind of thing, and would even give you opportunities to educate others, was really, really great,” Mr Jelley says.
Residents are assigned a youth development worker, who provides assistance with study and career opportunities, and help with life skills and referrals to mental health services.
“My development worker is called Boz. He’s absolutely fantastic and he’ll be there at a drop of a hat to help me talk through different things,” Mr Jelley says. “Foyers are run with a model of focusing on the good things about people rather than, ‘Oh, you’ve gone through this, you’ve had a history of that, so you’re going to be a problem child.’ It’s just such a fantastic thing.”
Twenty-six per cent of Victorians experiencing homelessness are aged between 12 and 24, according to a Youth Affairs Council Victoria report in 2020, with at least 6000 homeless on any night.
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