Help for young homeless

EACH night about 1326 people in the Illawarra experience homelessness, more than half aged under 24.

A my|place Youth Housing scheme will benefit from a fund-raiser to help the region's young homeless people.

National Homeless Persons' Week was marked last week.

The Lighthouse Community Care initiative provides medium to long-term accommodation for young people through its my|place facility.

They support, develop and empower those aged 16-24 to break the cycle of homelessness.

One such young person is 17-year-old Shawnii-Rae Taylor.

Homeless since the age of 13, she had bounced between various refuges.

Wollongong-born Ms Taylor arrived at my|place's Yallah accommodation about six weeks ago.

Ms Taylor said my|place didn't just offer accommodation, but was a support network.

"They've given me somewhere to stay, a roof over my head, food, help with transport," she said.

"They're helping me through past issues, setting goals, staying away from bad things."

Ms Taylor is eyeing a career in childcare and is planning to study at TAFE next year.

"They've helped me with stability," she said.

"Looking for jobs, education, getting my Ls, helping me get to counselling."

My|place youth support worker Chris Mackie said Ms Taylor was settling in well.

"She wants to move forward. We look forward to working with her in the months ahead and help support her in finding independent housing, set attainable goals," he said.

Restaurant Ribs and Rumps Shellharbour will assist my|place's efforts by hosting the Meat your Match Challenge for Youth Homelessness on August 26.

Challengers take on a mammoth serving of rump steak, beef ribs and chips. Fifty per cent of the cost of each meal will go to my|place Youth Housing.

Organisers hope to make it an annual event.

Mr Mackie said such fund-raisers were vital, especially as the group's funding body may be changing.

"If funding bodies change we may lose our funding," he said.

The group is partially funded by the state government, but regularly need to raise funds to house more young people.

For more information on the challenge phone 4260 9101.

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