Home – A Safe Space to Belong
This Homelessness Week we’re exploring what it really takes to know you’ve found a home. By unpacking just two of the stories of young people we’re supporting, we see that it’s not only a roof over your head that matters. By accepting young people as they are and appreciating them in practical ways, we help them know that they belong to a community and are safe to be themselves. Home is a safe space where you belong.
Jess* came to Fusion after her school expressed concern about how safe she was at home. Pressure to perform and live up to family expectations had always been intense. Punishment, including violence followed whenever she didn’t get the grades that were expected of her.
All the messages she received told her that she didn’t matter; that she wasn’t important.
At Fusion, Jess had a safe place to sleep and was surrounded by people who cared about what mattered to her. For the first time, people were interested in finding out what she liked, and even wanted to spend time with her.
When Jess was sick, the team chose special foods for her and paid for streaming services so she could isolate in comfort.
The Impact of Belonging
After only a few weeks, the team could see a difference in Jess. She was ready to make eye contact with others and taking small steps to take on board positive feedback.
“Before I came to Fusion I felt very alone, now I have gained friends in the other young people and know that the staff support me, so I don’t’ feel alone anymore.” – Jess. 18-year-old
Fusion became the safe space Jess needed; a place where she was valued for just being herself. A place where she belonged.
*name changed to protect identity
What Does This Mean for Us?
We all need more than a roof over our heads. A sense of belonging is critical if we are to develop into psychologically and socially healthy adults. Research now shows that for young people who have grown up with abuse, neglect or unpredictability in the home, the impact can be both devastating and long-lasting.
For young people like Jess, it’s not just the place to sleep that matters but all the relationships and supports that go with it. Whether that is interested youth workers committed to valuing the individual, or youth programs and activities that build a young person’s social network. It is all part of building the vital sense of belonging that’s been missing.
Kiah* first connected with Fusion in early high school. With a tough home life, our youth programs became a home away from home. A place where Kiah could be herself and still be included.
Ending up in a youth accommodation service for a year, Kiah found support and connection in Fusion’s online programs, which became particularly important for her through lockdown.
In the year that followed, Kiah moved on from the accommodation service, finding a room to live in, with shared cooking and living spaces. The rest of the residents were older than her, however, and it wasn’t a place where Kiah could relax and be herself. She even struggled to cook for herself and ended up skipping lots of meals.
What made the difference?
Through this difficult time, Fusion was there for Kiah. Members of the team made a permanent arrangement to take her out for dinner once a fortnight. These were times to touch base, connect and have a meal. This, plus support from her school and her involvement in youth programs, meant she was strongly connected into a community of people who valued and appreciated her.
“For me, home wasn’t a safe place to be, so I ended up leaving. I was jumping through a bunch of homelessness services and I found that I never truly felt like I belonged there either. I ended up finding solace in joining the [Fusion Youth] online program and actually felt like I belonged somewhere, and since joining Fusion online, I’ve really branched out to attending other parts of Fusion. Fusion has really given me a safe space where I can belong and be comfortable.” – Kiah. 18-year-old.
It is the sense of belonging that Kiah has found with Fusion that brings her hope and purpose. She’s even begun studies in community work, so that she can make a difference in the lives of other young people in the same way.
What Can You Do?
While much is being done to prevent homelessness and to support those who are homeless, the reality is that nearly 120 000 people are experiencing homelessness in Australia. 42% are under the age of 25.
This Homelessness Week we are so aware of the impact that a home and community can have on all aspects of a person’s life. To find out about the number of people experiencing homelessness and the social housing need in your community, visit https://everybodyshome.com.au/heat-maps/
Get in Touch
At Fusion, we’d love to help you find a way to respond in your community. To find your closest Fusion centre and talk about how you can be involved, click below.