Youth Homelessness Matters Day

Today is Youth Homelessness Matters Day, a national campaign which aims to raise public awareness about youth homelessness and celebrate the resilience of young people who are at risk of or experiencing homelessness in Australia.

Elena Maria Wangurra, a Triestina-Warramirri woman currently residing in Brisbane, spoke to Anglicare NT on National Homelessness Matters Day. Born in Gove, Elena spent the majority of her preteen years living in various towns in the Northern Territory. She was a part of the first Youth Committee at Anglicare NT in Nhulunbuy, organising meetings, youth week events, rehearsals and performances for the community to talk about youth issues. At 21, Elena moved to Brisbane to go to the Aboriginal Centre for the Performing Arts (ACPA) and has since completed her Diploma in Performing Arts. She has danced and sung with Jessica Mauboy, travelled to Brasil on a cultural exchange, choreographed and presented for the Logie nominated TV show Move it Mob style and has performed in numerous shows bringing education and awareness to Indigenous issues through performance. Elena strives to empower the Indigenous community and to educate the wider community on Indigenous history and culture.

Why is youth homelessness important to you?
Youth homeless day is important to me because I believe that we all deserve the same basic human needs – adequate shelter, decent food and clean water. No person should be excluded from having this.

Why do you think young people experience homelessness?
I believe the cause is multi layered when young people experience homelessness and I think that some of these causes may come from their primary home not being a safe or adequate environment. There may be issues in the home which force these young people into homelessness because it is considered a better option than staying in the home.
Some young people may find themselves homeless because their parents/careers cannot provide for them or care for them and they are forced to fend for themselves by any means necessary. Or their home may be so over crowded that there is no room for them there.

Why is it important that we celebrate the strength and resilience of those experiencing homelessness?
It may only take an ounce of encouragement or acknowledgement of the strength and resilience in these young people experiencing homelessness for them to push on. You may be the hope that guides someone to a more positive situation.

26,000 young people in OUR country are experiencing homelessness. That’s what we are dealing with in this country.

Our young people aren’t defined by their status of living situation, we all experience hard times and those that are doing it tough deserve to be recognised because it is not an easy road. We all need a helping hand sometimes.

What can people do to help young people who might be experiencing homelessness?
Lend a hand, an ear or a resource. Youth homelessness isn’t always a case of “I don’t want to live by my parent’s rules”. For some it is the safest option. Show compassion and behave in a way that you would want others to if it were you!

What would you like to see happen nationally to reduce/end youth homelessness?
I hope to see national recognition into this issue and for us to have greater national understanding of the causes of youth homelessness.

I would love to see everyone give an extra bit of thought to the person you may judge for being homeless and think about how you may help another human being in that moment.

Youth photo Elena