The most recent census shows that a quarter of all people experiencing homelessness in 2016 were aged between 12 and 24 years. Family conflict, trauma, violence, mental illness, substance abuse and financial stress are all common causes of youth homelessness. Underlying issues can very easily escalate conflict to the point where a young person can’t stay at home any more. Couch surfing at friends’ places can slide into street homelessness, which can disrupt education and introduce all kinds of negative life challenges.
There is a lot of stigma around the idea of homelessness, and most families don’t identify their young person as being ‘at-risk of homelessness’. Some parents wouldn’t describe the situation this way as they are able to offer stable accommodation. MercyCare Reconnect focuses its efforts on early intervention at the stage where parents and teens are not getting along, to help address some of the underlying issues. This can minimise the likelihood of the young person having to leave the family home, long before the word “homeless” even enters the conversation.
Reconnect is a national service and MercyCare has the contract to cover two significant geographical areas of the Perth metropolitan area. Schools and services can make referrals, but parents and young people are also able to self-refer to get help with counselling, mediation and practical support to the whole family.
Staff are trained to be culturally secure and non-judgemental in the way they work with families. Rather than prescribing a particular view of “how to parent”, they focus on reflective parenting, leading to improvements in the family dynamic.
One of the many tools they use is Reflective Parenting techniques  (from the Bringing Up Great Kids program). Reflective or ‘mindful’ parenting:
- helps parents be more aware of their own feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations;
- helps them become more aware of their young person’s thoughts, feelings and needs;
- assists them to be more self-aware and improve their capacity for emotional self-regulation in their parenting;
- helps them to be less critical or judgemental of themselves and their young person;
- increases their ability to stand back from situations without responding immediately or inappropriately;
- gives them more choices in how you respond to their young person; and
- strengthens the relationship between parent and young person.
The team receive constant feedback from families who have seen positive results. Three members of the same family describe their experience with the Reconnect worker, Sue (all names changed):
Anne (mother) – “We have been given excellent tools to work with which we didn't have before. There has been a great improvement with Jamie's attitude with guidance in knowing the correct paths and giving myself tools to better myself and how to handle situations. Sue has been great support in providing the tools and how to overcome situations, with being able to handle them next time. I feel without Sue our situation wouldn't (have) improved and in fact (would have) worsened. Thank you!”
Jamie (son)- “I think Sue has been a great help to our family, because she has helped us a lot in giving us information in helping our family”.
Sam (daughter) “Thank you Sue for being such a great help to us, I think we've really improved. If you didn't come here, there would have been more problems and difficulty. I think we all really like you now. If we didn't have Reconnect, Mum and Jamie wouldn't (have) improved and have respect for each other like they do now and not argue so much which used to upset me and Mum. Thank you so much”.
MercyCare Reconnect provides services to over 200 young people and their families each year. This service is in high demand for places. The referral line is open Monday to Friday 9am – 4pm. Call us on 1800 800 046 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are in crisis, please contact Crisis Care on 9223 1111 or 1800 199 008 (country free call)
Crisis Care can be also accessed through the translating and interpreting service on 13 14 50.
Crisis Care operates 24 hours, 7 days a week.