The problem of youth homelessness is Australia has received relatively little media attention despite their being approximately 44,000 homeless young people across the country today. While coverage of the beginning of the school year is repeated annually, only a few, often underfunded organisations address the needs of disadvantaged students in gaining an education. The importance of having socially disadvantaged children complete their education is well known, but for this to be achieved specialist facilities require assistance from both the government and philanthropists.
As stated by Mr Bruce Fink, the Executive Chairman of Executive Channel Network and a long-term benefactor of the Salvation Army’s Oasis Youth Support Network, “Education is key to young people carving out a future for a better life. I can think of very few causes that are more important than this”.
Oasis is one organization providing professional support to disadvantaged and homeless children who are not part of mainstream schools in Sydney. Oasis aims to better the lives of young people through a range of services including emergency accommodation and employment training. They have been assisting marginalizing young people in Sydney’s inner city since 1992.
Bruce Fink has supported the organisation’s Education Centre for the past five years by providing textbooks, technology and stationary. The Education Centre provides an alternative means for children unable to attend school to complete their education up to the Higher School Certificate. It has been found that many young people that are homeless face a number of difficulties in attending school. Many are unable to attend due to mental health difficulties, family-related issues or because of the financial burden attending school encumbers. At Oasis, young people can get the tools needed to complete their coursework and are able to seek guidance through their courses from professionals.
In the past year, Oasis’ services have assisted approximately 1,550 young people. This assistance greatly helps in reducing the number of people that experience chronic homelessness as well as unemployment. According to Oasis’ 2015 report ‘The Costs of Youth Homelessness’, only 31% of homeless young people over the age of 18 completed their education through to Year 12 and the unemployment rate of homeless youth in a sample study was at 84%. By ensuring young people complete their education Oasis increases individual’s employment prospects so they may become self-sufficient members of their communities.
“Many of the kids come from unbelievably difficult background”, Bruce Fink said. “It is just extraordinary how transformative the experience of Oasis has been to them. It gives them a real chance at a satisfying and meaningful future.”
Individual donations are still a primary source of funding for specialist homelessness services across Australia, though there has recently been a boost in Government funding. In 2015 the Federal Government signed a two year funding deal with the Baird Government of New South Wales. The Federal Government would contribute $60 million over the next two years while the Baird Government contributes $70 million to improve services provided to homeless youth and domestic violence vistims.
At the time of writing it is unknown how this funding would impact on services such as Oasis. Carol Cavuoti, a representative of Oasis said that it was still too early to determine the impact of increased funding across the state but that “this is not really a significant amount of money for such a significant problem.
“Individual donations can be vital to some of Oasis’ many programs, allowing some programs to continue to exist, some to have the resources they need…and others to provide additional brokerage funds to clients.”
Oasis currently has an operating budget of approximately $7 million. Half of this is funded by the Federal and State Governments while the other half is acquired through charity events and individual donations. Oasis has had to previously cut programs that reached out to disadvantaged young people in rural areas.
In order to ensure that Oasis can continue to assist young people a greater numbers of philanthropists and donations are required. Bruce Fink, who is involved in multiple philanthropic projects in Sydney, expressed this sentiment in saying “I feel we are privileged to live in this country and believe we all need to contribute to make things better for the next generation and the generations to come.”
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