In the small town of Broken Hill, on the very edge of New South Wales, a series of free lockers have been installed to help the town’s growing youth homeless population.
Across NSW, homelessness has risen by 27 percent since the last census, and more than 28,000 young people (aged 12 to 25) are homeless on any given night. In Broken Hill, which has a population of about 18,000 people, there’s almost 170 young people experiencing homelessness.
These lockers, located at the Headspace Broken Hill service centre in the CBD, are designed for young people to be able to leave their possessions someplace safe. They’re the first of three sets that’ll be dotted at other service providers around the city.
Headspace Broken Hill centre manager Rynette Gentle told PEDESTRIAN.TV that the idea for lockers came out of the District Implementation and Coordination Committee (DIACC), which looked at ways to improve systematic issues around the risk of homelessness in the area.
“This initiative came from asking people experiencing homelessness what could further help them while finding accommodation and the lockers came from these discussions. If a young person is couch surfing or doesn’t have a permanent place to stay, their personal items aren’t safely left on the street or in a rooming house for example,” she said.
Codes for the lockers will change once a week, encouraging young people to come back to Headspace for a new one.
“We hope any young person wanting to use a locker, who may not be seeing any service provider, is comfortable to come into the centre to talk with someone about what they’re going through,” said Gentle.
“Our staff can speak with them, ask if they’re ok and how are things going, and can lead to increased contact by us and the young person in-need. This is why the code is changed weekly so we can make continually make contact and build rapport and trust with the young person. If a young person uses one of the lockers we can also further support them by providing personal care products toothpaste, deodorant etc. and some items of canned food if required.”
While there’s no explicit plans to roll this out to other areas around Australia (the initiative came from a local committee), Headspace are super hopeful that they’ll be able to share their learnings with other centres.
“We want to build resilient adults and we need to come together as a community to support them in all aspects,” said Gentle. “We see the installation of these lockers as a platform to begin building relationships with young people in the community to support them and get them back on their feet.”