Can you imagine a young person looking for a home to live in? A young person with limited income and resources compared to a working family? Housing is difficult for everyone, especially young people who are already struggling.
There is no data to show that we are in a housing crisis specifically for our young people. But I know and we all should know that this is far from true. The Aotearoa New Zealand Homelessness Action Plan only provides one paragraph phrasing support for prevention for young people. But what's even crazier than only having one paragraph is that it is only targeted for those coming out of state care.
Don't judge someone by their current circumstances, especially young people who are just starting out in life, you never know who they are going to grow into.
When I was 18 I was doing really well in my course studies, and I was gaining independence through work experience. I made one decision that caused a ripple effect and a series of events that lead to my being homeless.
Throughout my housing difficulties, I faced many barriers like racism, biased judgment, a lack of understanding and a range of stigma-based bull. My niece and I used to dream about the day we would open our own youth-homeless shelter and what we'd implement, how we'd ensure the young people received good life skills and teach them the "real stuff".
On Tuesday, I, Kylia my niece, and our friend Harmony attended the Youth Transitional Housing Hui in Whangarei. It was a bit surreal to say the least. Fuelled by positive affirmations and taking small steps, it's truly magical to go from planting a seed to watching it blossom.
Our young people are facing a range of issues, from having no income to unsafe home environments, lack of knowledge in navigating the housing system, and relationship breakdowns, to mention a few. With a housing crisis, it can feel like the list keeps getting bigger in terms of the barriers young people are having to face to get back on their feet and into secure, safe housing.
Many landlords can be extremely difficult to engage with, especially when you are young and earning a low income, that's if you are lucky enough to have a job.
From Tuesday's hui and others' kōrero a few comments stuck out for me, like "young people don't recognise that they are homeless" and "the age which we are seeing young people facing housing difficulties is decreasing to ages as young as 12".
Manaaki Rangatahi collective in South Auckland have recognised the need to support youth housing solutions alongside groups such as Likewise, Strive and other local providers in their community. They shared their gems with us at the hui to help us better support our community's development in this space. We are all in this together, these are our young people, no matter where they are in the motu.
When it comes to looking at what solutions are currently in operation for youth in our community, it is fair to say there is the bare minimum. Especially if those young people are not connected to their whenua and feel uncomfortable to return.
I would like to acknowledge the amazing mahi that does exist - for example, this one for specific youth groups like Te Ora Hou (another great youth provider in our community) with the Maia House in Tikipunga supporting young mothers up to the age of 19.
On the bright side, change will come and we will find solutions, even if we have to create them as a community to support "the rangatira of the next generation" as Bill from Strive shared.