A turning of the sod event took place in Melton on 21 September 2018 to celebrate the start of the construction of a purpose-built youth refuge which will accommodate young people and young families experiencing homelessness.
The state-of-the-art youth refuge, called the Hope Street First Response Youth Service in Melton, will consist of eight individual bedrooms for young people and a two-bedroom family unit, and will accommodate 100 young people experiencing homelessness each year. It is a project of non-profit organisation Hope Street Youth and Family Services - one of the longest established specialist youth homelessness services in Victoria.
Hope Street commenced a First Response Youth Mobile Outreach Service in Melton in June 2018, funded by The Ian Potter Foundation, which has already assisted over 91 young people with crisis accommodation, material aid and outreach support within and around the Melton municipality.
Donna Bennett, CEO of Hope Street Youth and Family Services, said the response to the mobile outreach service in its first three months of operation demonstrates the pressing need for services for young people experiencing homelessness. "At present the closest refuge centre for homeless youth is 30 kilometres away in Sunshine, so this will be a welcome and much-needed response within the local Melton area that will keep young people connected to their communities," she said.
The event, which took place at the site of the new centre where construction has commenced, included a Welcome to Country and smoking ceremony conducted by Mr Ron Jones, an Indigenous Elder. Guest speakers included the Hon. Natalie Hutchins – local member for and Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Prevention of Family Violence, Women, and Industrial Affairs – and Cr Bob Turner – City of Melton Mayor. Ecodynamics donated a tree for the tree planting ceremony.
Some 60 community members, councillors and supporters from the Melton area were in attendance, including Cr. Lara Carli, Cr. Kathy Madjlik, Cr. Melissa De Santis, Melton City Council CEO Kel Tori, Don Nardella MP Member for Melton. The event was also attended by Hope Street team members and the Chair of the Board, Mr Andrew Nette.
Donna Bennett, CEO of Hope Street Youth and Family Services, said getting to this day had been a journey. "This day has been four years in the making, and it’s a real joy to be here celebrating this moment. Today is the culmination of research, fundraising and community awareness events, political lobbying and a lot of negotiating," she said.
Donna explained the project is a true collaboration of various stakeholders coming together to provide a solution for young people experiencing homelessness in Melton. "This is a beautiful example of collaboration and partnership – the coming together of government, council, businesses, philanthropists, community groups and generous individuals – all who share our passion to end youth homelessness in Melton," said Donna.
The State Government have provided major funding of the capital expenses and recurrent operational funding, The City of Melton, who have leased Hope Street the land for the site and have provided executive officer expertise, The Marian & E.H. Flack Trust and the Edward Wilson Trust have both provided significant philanthropic contributions and some 32 businesses have provided either full donations of building materials or significant discounts.
The building is expected to be completed in mid-2019. The mobile outreach response team, thanks to a significant grant from The Ian Potter Foundation, will continue providing immediate services and support to vulnerable young people and young families experiencing homeless in Melton and neighbouring communities in the meantime.
To learn more about youth homelessness and young people's lived experiences of homelessness, please see I Am A Young Person.
Images courtesy of Melton City Council