Tenille Gilbert, Co-Founder & Managing Director, For Change Co.
Melbourne is the city that I grew up in, it’s the city that has given me the opportunity to develop into who I am and now to have an influence on its future. However, it is also a city that has at times disappointed me, and my disappointment has often been in the city pushing out our most vulnerable to portray a certain image. Unfortunately, pushing out is not the simple fix that some may have hoped for and you would be hard-pressed these days to visit the Melbourne CBD and not see the most obvious displays of homelessness on our streets.
Youth homelessness, in particular, is a striking display of inequality for me as it is a situation that young people end up in due to a series of life circumstances that are outside of their control.
In Melbourne, young people experiencing homelessness represent to me untapped potential. We talk about young people as our future, yet, we ignore the group of young people with some of the highest resilience, lived experiences, and the potential to seriously influence Melbourne becoming a more equitable place to live.
We allow a range of unavoidable circumstances in a young person’s life to determine their future, labelling them by their experiences of hardship, rather than seeing them as the incredible young people that they are. The views of homelessness that many of us carry are uninformed and do not reflect the people we place judgment upon.
If living through a pandemic has taught us anything about how our society works, it is that trust in authority is easily broken and hard to regain and that a strong community can get us through almost anything.
For me, I see these two things as essential in pushing our way towards zero homelessness in Melbourne. Trust from young people experiencing homelessness in others, but especially those in positions of authority is low, and why should we expect it to be anything but? Creating trusting relationships and letting young people test our true trust and commitment towards them is essential in leading young people into opportunities that can support them out of homelessness.
Leveraging this trust to create communities is not only imperative for those experiencing homelessness to engage with society and to be supported out of this situation, but also for those not experiencing homelessness to put their hand up to be a part of the solution.
We have an abundance of this wonderful, untapped resource in Melbourne, young people with huge potential but not enough belief in themselves or from others - let’s untap it!
By ending homelessness in Melbourne we can give those experiencing homelessness a better quality of life and the freedom to imagine and pursue their own future, whilst creating a more equitable city overall.
Come on Melbourne, let’s do this together!