By Anastasia Prikhodko
A treasure hunt and the world’s first ‘Sleep in Your Car’ event are two imaginative ways organisations are raising awareness and inspiring young people to support youth homelessness.
YFoundations, a peak body that aims to end youth homelessness and represent the needs of young people at risk of homelessness, organised a team-based treasure hunt, The Race to End Youth Homelessness, at the Royal Botanic Gardens in April.
“The event was based on the popular television show The Amazing Race,” says Michael Coffey, the chief executive officer of Yfoundations. “The treasure hunt is a new concept to increase community participation and support. It reinforces the importance of having fun, which is what young people should be doing. Being homeless is not part of young peoples’ identity, they are just like everyone else.”
Participant Lili Jasper and her Rotaract group (a Rotary-sponsored service club for young men and women) decided to create a team and get involved. Lili began to take interest in the issue of homeless young people in her final year of school.
“I have always thought homelessness was an important issue in society, particularly in a country such as Australia where there is so much wealth and security yet so many people suffer, ” Lili says.
She says the treasure hunt was held in the city because it has a high number of homeless people and it allowed the participants a fun, creative event as well as an opportunity to reflect on the difficulties facing people who have to sleep in the streets.
“We were given a key and told to exchange it with someone living in the streets for something of more value. This was really difficult to do and we asked many people who all refused until finally one man exchanged it for a spoon.
“This made me think of the reality of asking for a place to stay when one doesn’t have much to give in return, a scaring and humbling reality to face.”
The next goal for YFoundations is to raise awareness of youth homelessness in schools and encourage younger children to look out for one another.
Four days later, on National Youth Homelessness Matters Day, Fusion Western Sydney organised ‘Sleep in Your Car’ event to promote local awareness of the issue.
A family who used to sleep in their car outside the Fusion building inspired the event. Amanda Wilgress, manager of Western Fusion Sydney Accommodation and Support Services, says the family’s experience lent a more personal touch to the event.
The event focused on community awareness, and the reasons for youth homelessness such as family breakdown, abuse, and poverty, she says.
The event brought the community members together as they created mosaic stepping-stones, had a barbecue, talked about issues surrounding youth homelessness and then finally retired to their cars.