This procedure describes how to access accommodation and support services for youth justice young people who are homeless, or at risk of homelessness.


When to use this procedure

When case managing young people who are homeless, or at risk of homelessness, and who need support to secure stable accommodation.


Practice context and legislation

  • Young people account for a significant proportion of the homelessness service system in Victoria.
  • Evidence shows that being homeless is associated with greater risk of offending, arrest or incarceration.
  • The homelessness service system recognises a continuum of homelessness including:
    • primary homelessness – people without conventional accommodation, for example, living on the streets, in cars, deserted buildings/squats or parks
    • secondary homelessness – people moving between various forms of temporary shelter, including friends (couch surfing), emergency accommodation, refuges, hostels and rooming/boarding houses
    • tertiary homelessness – people living in single rooms in private boarding houses without their own bathroom, kitchen or security of tenure.
  • A number of issues impact on the ability of young people involved with youth justice being able to access and maintain suitable accommodation. These young people may require specialist housing support.
  • Assistance for people who are homeless or at risk is provided through funded programs including the Homelessness Support Program and the Transitional Housing Management (THM) program. These services are provided by a variety of community service organisations across Victoria, which can be accessed through various entry points across the state.
  • Young people involved with youth justice may need support to access stable accommodation, which aims to prevent or reduce the risk of long-term homelessness.
  • Tailored accommodation that supports and reflects a young person’s changing physical, social and emotional needs is one way that youth justice can manage the risk of young people in the community.
  • Using a care team approach ensures that program options for accommodation and support are included in the client assessment and plan (CAP).
  • Access to secure and stable accommodation can develop a young person’s independent living skills, community connectedness and self-confidence. This may minimise risks that contribute to continued homelessness, reoffending or incarceration.

Roles and key tasks

Youth justice case manager

  • Undertake intake, assessment and client service planning.
  • Implement intervention regarding homelessness.
  • Consult with other professionals in the case management of dual-order young people.
  • Complete referrals to appropriate housing services.

Team leader / team manager

  • Provide guidance and consultation on, and endorsement of, case management issues as required.

Assistant Director / Manager Individual and Family Support

  • Provide oversight, direction and monitoring of the area youth justice program.
  • Provide case consultation regarding court recommendations, breaches and young people exhibiting high-risk behaviours.

Youth Justice Senior Practice Advisor

  • Provide consultation on case management issues, particularly in relation to young people exhibiting high-risk behaviour. This should occur subject to any local area agreements between Assistant Director / Manager Individual and Family Support and the Senior Practice Adviser.

The procedure in detail

Engage the young person in the process

Accessing the housing and homelessness service system can be a long and complex process.

It is important to engage the young person in all aspects of the process so they can learn and understand the pathways and compliance requirements associated with the various types of housing available.

Independent living arrangements and housing needs

Assess whether the young person needs an immediate response to secure emergency or crisis accommodation.

Where appropriate, explore alternative accommodation options within family/peer network.

Determine what sort of housing/accommodation is required and appropriate.

Differentiate between immediate and long-term housing needs.

There are a number of issues to consider when determining a young person’s suitability to enter into independent living arrangements.

Refer to procedure for 'Risk management of young people in rental housing properties'.

For dual-order young people under 16 years of age – refer to child protection.

Young people involved with both child protection and/or disability services may also be eligible for placement or specialist housing support through these programs' service systems.

The child protection manual contains information on accessing emergency accommodation services.

Opening Doors – initial housing assessment

Youth justice young people are entitled to access accommodation, housing support and services within the broader homelessness service system.

Access to vacancies and services is through local area service networks (LASN) and housing entry points.

In the Opening Doors model, an initial housing assessment and plan is undertaken at designated homelessness entry points.

Local services and agencies that do not operate as entry points are referred to as ‘provider agencies’ because they hold the resources, including support, accommodation and brokerage.

In some local areas, the entry-point agencies can also be a provider. For example, the only Supported Accommodation Assistance Program service in a rural or regional area will likely act as both the entry point and provider agency.

Assist the young person to contact their local entry point via the Victorian statewide housing referral number 1800 825 955 or through Melbourne Youth Support Service (details below).

If a young person is, or appears to be, excluded from the Opening Doors model, workers may contact the Youth Justice Homelessness Assistance service (YJHA) (details below).

Protocol for local area service networks and youth justice

A specific protocol is now is place between local area service networks and youth justice for young people exiting youth justice precincts who are at risk of homelessness on release and who cannot access dedicated youth justice transitional housing properties.

Young people in custody who are unable to access accommodation on release can have their initial housing assessment completed by the YJHA workers in youth justice precint. This can be provided to the local area service networks / entry points up to 8–12 weeks before release and placed on the priority list.

Youth justice workers case managing young people in custody should contact the YJHA to request these referrals to housing entry points before release.

This will ensure that young people will not have to wait to present to housing entry points once released from custody, and increase the opportunity to secure appropriate accommodation and support after release.

This includes young people exiting custody on parole, remissions or after a period of remand.

Emergency/crisis accommodation

Young people involved with youth justice may need emergency or crisis accommodation.

There is a Victorian statewide referral number available for this purpose.

If a young person is homeless, at risk of homelessness or escaping family violence, assist the young person to call: 1800 825 955 (24-hour, statewide, toll-free number).

This toll-free number will direct the call to the housing support service closest to the young person.

Outside business hours, the call will be directed to Salvation Army Crisis Services.

Youth justice workers can call on behalf of or with the young person or they can self-refer.

Calls can also be made directly to the local homelessness entry point services for assistance or to apply for housing.

Young people can also access Melbourne Youth Support Service.

This is a Melbourne-based service but is available for all young people across the state.

Young people can phone or present directly to this service at:

19 King Street, Melbourne – 9614 3688
Monday to Friday 9.00 am – 8.00 pm
Weekends and public holidays 10.00 am – 6.00 pm.

In some rural areas young people can receive emergency accommodation assistance by presenting at police stations.

Youth refuges

Youth refuges provide short-term accommodation (average of six weeks) for young people aged 16 to 21 years, who are in crisis or immediate risk of homelessness.

Support is provided to the young person to identify and access alternative housing (exit planning).

However, there are differences between the refuges regarding the intensity and frequency of this support.

External factors also influence this, including resources and access to transitional housing stock.  

There is significant demand for youth refuge.

Furthermore, throughput can be hampered by limited supported housing options, access to affordable private rental and lengthy waiting lists for public long-term housing.

If a young person is pursuing this housing option, confirm with them their willingness to abide by the rules of the refuge.

This may include a curfew, substance abuse conditions, friends visiting and so on.

Confirm any rules with the refuge and discuss exit planning with the young person and relevant staff.

Transitional housing

Transitional housing provides secure, furnished medium-term housing for people experiencing homelessness. Referrals to Transitional Housing Management (THM) can also be made through Opening Doors statewide entry points.

Transitional housing properties are owned or leased by Office of Housing and managed by community organisations – THMs.

They are let on a medium-term basis to people who are either homeless or at risk of homelessness.

Tenancy is linked with support delivered through community housing services, as well as assistance to develop independent living skills, and exit planning.

Transitional housing properties are not identified or allocated as 'youth' specific.

It is the responsibility of the individual THM to make provisions for youth in the allocation of their resources; however they are not required to meet a specific quota or target.

Housing Establishment Fund (HEF)

The Housing Establishment Fund is available to THM and SAAP agencies to assist eligible young people to access overnight accommodation or private rental.

HEF funding is limited and not ongoing.

Discuss access to HEF funding with the local entry point or housing service.

Transitional housing and support through the THM – YJHPI

Youth justice provides a specialist response to homelessness through the Transitional Housing Management – Youth Justice Housing Pathways Initiative (THM-YJHPI). This program is a key element of the broader Youth Justice Community Support Service (YJCSS).

The primary target group for the THM – YJHPI is young people aged 17 and over who are leaving youth justice custodial precincts on parole and who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

Other young people involved with youth justice may be eligible depending on vacancies.

There are two components of the THM-YJHPI:

  • a housing and support component that provides 55 transitional housing properties and support for up to 110 eligible young people involved with youth justice per year across the state
  • a Youth Justice Homelessness Assistance (YJHA) service that provides specialist housing information and referral for young people aged 15 years and over, who are exiting youth justice centres and who cannot access dedicated THM accommodation and support.

Referrals for the THM-YJHPI are through the YJCSS as part of the case planning process.

All referrals to the YJCSS must be endorsed by the youth justice team manager (or delegate).

Identify young people involved with youth justice to be referred to the YJCSS with a focus on young people requiring high/intensive-level intervention as determined by the client assessment and planning process.

Identify young people in custody requiring post-release support.

In consultation with youth justice centre staff, allow time for engagement of services prior to release from custody as per parole planning processes.

Assess whether a young person requires, and is eligible for, the THM – YJHPI component for vacancies within the designated youth justice THM properties.

Youth Justice Homelessness Assistance Service

The Youth Justice Homelessness Assistance (YJHA) service is a statewide service that is part of the THM – YJHPI, provided by VincentCare Victoria Housing Services.

YJHA outreaches regularly to Parkville Youth Justice Precinct and Malmsbury Youth Justice Precinct.

YJHA provides information and assistance to young people, custodial centre staff and local area youth justice workers regarding accommodation and support options available to young people exiting custody.

The aim of YJHA is ensure a young person’s parole is not deferred due to a lack of appropriate accommodation.

YJHA can assist in making referrals to homelessness services and can undertake initial assessments to be provided to local area service networks / housing entry points across the state.

YJHA should be engaged as part of parole planning when accommodation and support services are limited and form part of the care team for young people in custody.

Refer to Protocol for young people exiting youth justice centres for more information.

YJHA will work with any young person aged 15–25 years old currently in a youth justice centre, excluding young people also involved in child protection.

The YJHA can be contacted by phoning: 9304 0100 or email (External link)

Public housing

The Department of Human Services provides public rental housing to eligible Victorians in need of housing.

Priority is given to people who are in urgent need due to homelessness or other critical circumstances.

The cost is 25 per cent of a tenant’s income.

Applications for public housing are divided into two segments:

  • early housing – for people who are experiencing or at risk of recurring homelessness, people with a disability who have significant support needs, and people with special housing needs
  • wait turn – for all eligible people on low incomes.

Young people with approved priority housing applications may wait a minimum of 18 months for an offer of housing.

Many factors influence the waiting time, including:

  • the type of application lodged
  • the type of property being sought in a given area
  • how often vacancies arise in each location
  • the availability of affordable alternatives in the private rental market in each location.

For public housing call:
1300 650 172 (local call fee within Victoria, except from mobile phones)
+61 (3) 9096 0000 (interstate, international and mobile calls)

General wait turn applications can be obtained from the Department of Human Services website and need to be lodged prior to an application for priority housing.

Priority housing applications must be completed by an approved housing service.

Youth justice workers may be asked to provide letters of support for these applications, provide information on the young person’s housing history and assist to obtain identification documentation and income support statements.

Neighbourly behaviour policy

Young people living in public housing must sign a statement of of neighbourly behaviour.

This statement outlines the responsibilities of tenants, including paying rent on time, respecting public housing properties and respecting their neighbour’s right to peace, comfort and privacy.

These responsibilities are part of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997.

Please refer to New directions for social housing: a framework for a strong and sustainable future and the Neighbourly behaviour statement for more information.

Rooming houses

Rooming house residents have an individual agreement with the house owner/manager and have exclusive possession of their room only, with a right to shared access of communal facilities.

While rooming house agreements must be reasonable under the Residential Tenancies Act 1997, this is not monitored or governed.

Rooming house accommodation (within the private housing sector) can often be expensive, and therefore is not a sustainable option for young people involved with youth justice.

Rooming houses may also present contamination risks and this should be taken into account when considering whether this type of accommodation is suitable for youth justice young people.

Private rental

The private rental market may be an appropriate housing option to explore for some young people involved with youth justice.

A number of agencies across the state provide private rental brokerage programs to assist young people enter and sustain tenancies in private rental and overcome barriers including previous rental history, employment history or lack of bond funds.

Programs may offer a range of flexible financial brokerage packages to assist with subsided rent, bond or furniture establishment.

Contact YJHA for further information.

Youth Justice Community Support Service

The Youth Justice Community Support Service (YJCSS) can also provide assistance to young people with accessing housing services and additional support to maintain accommodation.

More information is available in the Youth Justice Community Support Service practice instruction.

Youth foyers

Youth foyers focus on supporting young people by providing medium-term stable accommodation with personal support services, reconnection to learning and skills development, and work experience and access to jobs.

In order to be eligible for a youth foyer, a young person must be willing and have the capacity to engage with education, training and employment as part of their participation in the program.

Youth foyers are located in Melbourne, Ballarat and Warrnambool with a foyer in Shepparton in development.

As part of a pilot program, youth justice has negotiated dedicated placements or supported referral processes to some youth foyers for young people involved with youth justice.

For further information contact YJHA.

Homelessness and remand

Being homeless is not a valid reason for a young person to be remanded.

Community and custodial workers must work together to ensure that every viable option for accommodation is explored.

Referrals to the YJHA should be made as soon as possible for young people in remand who are at risk of homelessness on release from custody .

Tenancy rights and responsibilities

The Tenants Union of Victoria (TUV) provides advice, assistance and advocacy for tenants of private and public residential properties, and residents of rooming houses and caravan parks in Victoria, Australia.

Young people facing eviction can be referred to the TUV for information and advice.

Workers will also find useful fact sheets and resources on a range of housing issues including notices to vacate, tenancy rights and responsibilities and eviction process.

For further information visit the TUV website or contact the tenants helpline on 9416 2577

Using brokerage funds

Brokerage can be used to pay for accommodation at the discretion of the team manager.