Foyer Oxford to assist youth at risk of homelessness

The Department of Housing is involved in an exciting new development in Leederville that will house young people at risk of homelessness.

Homelessness is a big issue in Australia with the 2006 Census estimating that on any given night, approximately 105,000 people will be homeless across Australia.  Of these, 44,000 or forty three percent are considered to be young people under the age of 25.  The Foyer Oxford development will provide secure housing and support services for up to 98 people between 15 and 25, including 35 people at risk of or experiencing homelessness.  Eleven per cent of people assisted will be Indigenous.

The Foyer Oxford development is a partnership between Anglicare WA, Foundation Housing and the Central Institute of Technology who have formed a consortium to run the project.  The Department of Housing is providing capital of over $9 million for the development and the Commonwealth just over $10 million.  Support services will be funded through the joint Commonwealth/State National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness, as part of the A Place to Call Home initiative.  Additional funding of approximately $700,000 per annum will be provided through the Department for Child Protection for other support services.  The construction and fit out of the Foyer is expected to cost $23 million.

Peter Lonsdale, Director Housing Programs, says that the origins of the Foyer movement date back to post-war France, when the founders of the trade union movement established job centres to provide education and training for travelling workers. 

“Alongside these centres, various religious groups were also establishing hostels for young people,” he said.

“Following World War Two, the various providers of hostel accommodation for young people came together in a voluntary group.  Worsening conditions for French young people led the government to modernise the Foyer program for young people, promoting social inclusion and induction into the adult world and labour market.”

The United Kingdom Foyer movement came into being in 1992 with the establishment of The Foyer Federation and five pilot schemes based in existing YMCAs.  The UK scheme differs from the French, in that it services a more disadvantaged client group, with an even greater focus on employment and training.

Peter said that the Foyer concept has since swept across Europe, from Spain to Denmark to Romania, with the Foyer Oxford the first in Australia.

“The Foyer model is specifically designed for young people who are homeless, or at risk of becoming homeless,” he said.

“The aim of the model is to provide supported housing with a focus on developing life skills that may lead young people towards meaningful employment.

“The Department continues to focus on projects where a holistic approach is taken to ensuring tenancies can be maintained.  While we are opening doors for tenants in the first instance, the added support may mean that in the future, these are tenants who might be able to open doors for themselves.”

Construction is underway of a four-storey residential building consisting of 98 units at the Central Institute of Technology’s Leederville campus.  The land is owned by Training and Workforce Development, who have granted the consortium a 50-year peppercorn lease.

Forty eight of the rooms will feature an ensuite with shared laundries and common areas.  The remaining rooms will also have ensuites but will include a second small bedroom or sitting room or a lounge area.  The larger accommodation will be suitable for single parents as there will be space for their children.

The development will also include a retail area and cafe, as well as staff offices and meeting rooms for the management of the facility.

Peter says that there are now over 100 Foyers operating in the United Kingdom and over 500 in France.

“Hopefully the Foyer Oxford will be the first of many in Australia that will help youth at risk of homelessness,” he said.

The Foyer Oxford is expected to be completed in spring 2012.

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