Students with no place to call home
South Australian schools will be ordered to alert social workers to more than 1000 homeless students under a new State Government plan.
The instruction will be issued by a special taskforce of six ministers which will report directly to the Premier, Mike Rann, as part of an unprecedented assault against homelessness.
An investigation by the Social Inclusion Board has found at least 1000 primary, secondary and tertiary students are homeless in South Australia, moving among friends, relatives and acquaintances.
Board chairman Monsignor David Cappo said the "couch surfers" - as they are known - are still attending school or TAFE colleges, making identification possible so assistance can be provided.
"We're looking at a mechanism in the Department of Education to identify these kids and work with them by giving them good case managers and support staff," he said.
Monsignor Cappo said the children had become homeless because of family dysfunction, physical or sexual abuse and neglect.
"This includes kids at school or who have just left school and are in TAFE who are spending the night on a couch in the lounge room of their friends' houses," he said. "They move from friend to friend but they remain motivated enough and committed enough to keep going to school.
"These are kids who have been abused or their family situation is so dysfunctional they can't stay at home. We need to look at their individual situations. What is going on and whether their problems can be overcome.
"If we can't and the issues are too ingrained, then we need to look at what alternatives we can put in place so these kids can continue their education and have good accommodation," he said.
Monsignor Cappo said his board also was deeply concerned about the number of families who have become homeless.
Social Inclusion Unit, South Australia
31 Mar 2003