From street to suite: Homeless kids find a ‘beautiful’ place to call their own

Her body was found in Royal Park, in Parkville.

According to the Mission, until last month just 109 beds were available in 17 youth refuges across Victoria, for 16 to 25 year olds in crisis.

That figure has increased to 127 beds, after the 18 bed centre was officially opened on Thursday.

A sensory room in the new Frontyard refuge.

A sensory room in the new Frontyard refuge.Credit:Jason South

Ms Sutton admitted that this $9 million renovation of its long-running Frontyard Youth Services drop in centre won’t come close to solving the significant shortage of beds.

It has been open for a couple of weeks and it was already full. «There is a huge amount of demand.»

Every day Frontyard sees 40 to 60 young people with nowhere to sleep at night, with just a handful of beds available.

But she hopes the renovation, which was funded through philanthropy and $3.5 million from the state government, will be duplicated across the country.

One of the living spaces in the new homeless refuge in the city.

One of the living spaces in the new homeless refuge in the city.Credit:Jason South

The centre will be aimed at people with multiple issues such as trauma from family tragedy or violence; or with mental health issues, drug or alcohol addiction.

It will be open 24 hours a day and offer legal, Centrelink and medical services, as well as drug, family violence and mental health counselling and an outreach program.

Inside the new Frontyard refuge.

Inside the new Frontyard refuge.Credit:Jason South

Asked whether the new centre could have helped Ms Herron, Ms Sutton said she couldn’t comment.

«But what I can say is that this is targeted to a group of people who are entrenched in rough sleeping at the moment, who do have complex issues, including mental health and drug and alcohol.

«We do expect it to change young people’s lives who are trapped, falling between the gaps of existing … service systems.

«It is no ordinary refuge.»

Ms Herron’s family has asked that those attending a funeral for the 25-year-old on Monday donate to Frontyard.

Frontyard operations manager Rob Hosking said most clients had not chosen their dire situations. «They’ve just had really terrible things happen to them and they’ve grown up in really difficult circumstances.»

A bedroom at newly renovated homeless shelter.

A bedroom at newly renovated homeless shelter.Credit:Jason South

One young man arrived on his birthday, five years ago, having been ejected from foster care when he turned 18.

Frontyard found him accommodation in a youth refuge, gave him a case worker, and mental health and drug counselling.

Recently he was released from prison, without any transition accommodation or support.

He is now staying at Frontyard. Mr Hosking said that without the centre, the man would be sleeping in the cold on the street and at risk of experiencing violence.

Mr Hosking’s mantra is that «every young person who walks through the front door, we aim to end their experience of homelessness».

Rob Hosking is the operations manager at Melbourne City Mission’s Frontyard centre.

Rob Hosking is the operations manager at Melbourne City Mission’s Frontyard centre.Credit:Jason South

Carolyn Webb is a reporter for The Age.

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