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Call for funding to help support homeless kids: Education suffers when families have no place to call home

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February 07, 2018

Rochester Salvation Army’s Ben Clapton said schooling becomes difficult when a child’s family is homeless.

ALMOST 11,000 primary and secondary students sought assistance from homelessness services in Victoria in 2016-17.

And local homelessness services have confirmed children in Rochester are not immune from the problem.

The Council to Homeless Persons (CHP), the peak body for homelessness in Victoria, has warned that the chaos and transience of homelessness is having adverse effects on the education of young people.

It has called for a specialised program to support kids experiencing homelessness to stay in school.

In a state budget submission, CHP has called on the Victorian government to invest $17.6 million over four years to improve education outcomes for kids without a home.

The four-year investment would support students to stay in school by expanding an already existing program called LOOKOUT that is currently only available to kids in out-of-home care.

If funded, the expanded LOOKOUT program would see teams (including psychologists, learning advisers and a Koori consultant) placed in key regional and urban locations.

The teams would target kids experiencing homelessness who are at risk of disengaging from school by supporting their families, assisting with schooling costs and providing better support to schools and teachers in relation to homeless students.

Rochester Salvation Army’s Ben Clapton said schooling becomes difficult when a child’s family is homeless.

“Trying to find enough money to pay for books and uniforms is much harder. Then there are issues with having access to computers and technology,’’ he said.

‘‘We have a great relationship with the schools and support services, who help us with specific things.

‘‘We also have the thrift shop, which has some uniforms.’’

Anglicare Echuca’s Maria Connor said there were local success stories when it came to homeless families.

“It’s more complex when there are kids,” she said.

“But we had a family in Echuca who were facing the loss of their house. When they first walked in, the kids were struggling at school and the parents thought the family would soon be homeless and sleeping in a car.

“Thankfully by connecting with our workers, the family was able to find pathways to avoid a financial crisis.

“Now their kids are happily going to school here and they’re still living in their house.

“It takes time, but we can help to see lives – like the lives of this family – turned around.”

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