Member profile: Nicole Walsh, North West Youth Accommodation Service

The Manager of Brisbane-based North West Youth Accommodation Service (NWYAS) says it is important people realise that addressing the issues faced by young Queenslanders experiencing homelessness requires more than the ongoing supply of housing options.

 

For 30 years NWYAS has been supporting Queenslanders aged 16-25 who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

 

Manager Nicole Walsh says when resourcing decisions are made, it is essential that the provision of specialised support workers is factored in.

 

“So many young people we encounter exist in survival mode, living day to day in a very transient, chaotic situation,” Ms Walsh said.

 

“Matched with the need for safe housing for these young people and young families is the resource of a specialised support worker to support that young person to navigate their often very complex environment and develop the life-skills and capacity they need to be truly independent.”

 

As well as directly housing young people, NWYAS runs a program that supports clients who have the capacity to obtain and maintain accommodation in the community to transition to a share-house, student accommodation or private rental.

 

The breadth of their services enables NWYAS to provide individualised support.

 

To Ms Walsh, this is incredibly important, as ‘different frameworks and styles and different interventions will meet the needs of different service users at different times in their lives’. 

 

“Some of the young people we support have been homeless for many years, presenting with delays in life-skills and development and some present with significant challenges in their lives such as debt, substance abuse, mental health issues and a history of trauma and domestic and family violence,” Ms Walsh said.

 

“A challenge for me in this sector is the number of sibling groups we see through our doors, presenting from families where the dysfunction and harm is carried over from child to child down the line. 

 

“It’s not always smooth sailing – these young people are forced to learn hard and very adult lessons at a time in their lives when they have limited tools and resources and next to no family and community support.

 

“What never fails to inspire me is the young people we see exiting our service with new hope, life-skills and capacity – confident and equipped to live truly independent lives. 

 

“All the young people we meet are on a journey and I consider it a privilege to walk with them part of this way. “