Brisbane priest in national youth homelessness inquiry

Youth advocate and Brisbane priest, Fr Wally Dethlefs, who is one of four members of a national panel looking into youth homelessness, says that the phenomenon is growing.

The Catholic Leader reports that Fr Dethlefs is joining Major David Eldridge from the Salvation Army, homelessness researcher, Associate Professor David Mackenzie, and Narelle Clay from Southern Youth and Family Services based in Wollongong in the first national inquiry into youth homelessness in nearly two decades.

The National Youth Commission (NYC) Inquiry into Youth Homelessness is being billed as an independent community inquiry and is the first to look into the matter since the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission inquiry led by Brian Burdekin in 1989.

Fr Dethlefs was also a panel member of the Burdekin Inquiry and has a long history of work in the area including spearheading some recent initiatives developed by Brisbane Catholic Education to tackle the issue of homelessness among Catholic school students.

He said that despite some good initiatives being implemented following the Burdekin Inquiry, the number of young homeless people continued to rise throughout the 1990s and into the new century.

The ABC radio program PM quoted Fr Dethlefs as saying that one reason the problem is so bad in Queensland is that it is a "low tax State, so we don't put as much money into assisting families stay together".

"We don't put enough money into services for marginalised and homeless young people," he said.

Failure to do so will lead to a dysfunctional society, Fr Dethlefs told PM, forcing people to pay higher insurances and to barricade themselves into their own homes.

"And so one way or another [people] have to pay," Fr Dethlefs said.

Inmates punished by housing crisis

In another story, the Herald Sun reports that the housing shortage in Victoria has left many inmates lingering in prison until suitable housing can be found.

The report says that the public housing list can be up to two years long and private rentals are ruled out because ex-offenders cannot view the property and a criminal record would probably void an application anyway.

A known, permanent address is often a condition of release set down by the Adult Parole Board.

"It's (housing) always been a problem, but it's probably increased now with the housing shortage, especially in metropolitan Melbourne," says Fr Peter Norden, associate director of Jesuit Social Services.

Most prisoners didn't have access to the rental market because 90 per cent of them don't have an income, he said.

New probe to explore youth homelessness (Catholic Leader, 15/4/07)
Youth homelessness on the rise (PM, ABC, 10/4/07)
Parole housing crisis (Herald Sun, 12/4/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Housing and homelessness (Youth facts and stats)
Jesuit Social Services

Brisbane priest calls homeless youth problem a 'scandal' (CathNews, 15/11/04)
Report says students have no home life (CathNews, 22/10/04)

Turbulent town call on Fr Chris (Catholic Weekly, 15/4/07)
A beautiful purpose (Australian Catholics, April 2007)

12 Apr 2007