New Anglicare Victoria initiative in Bendigo to help young people gain independence

A new initiative coming to Bendigo will see young people learn to live independently and find their feet through living with older mentors.

Anglicare Victoria’s St Luke’s region is advertising for volunteer mentors to participate in the initiative, under which there will be two ‘mentor-supported tenancy’ houses for young people in Bendigo.

The first is for young people aged 16 to 18 moving out of residential care.

Michael Oerlemans, St Luke’s out of home care manager, said residential care provided a very supportive environment for young people, but once they turned 18, they had to leave care and were expected to become fully independent.

Mr Oerlemans said the idea of the home with the mentors was to provide semi-independent living for young people transitioning out of care. “It’s meeting a need we’ve been crying out for for some time,” he said.

Mentors will live in the house but will not look after the young residents; instead, they will be there to be a role model for positive behaviour, provide advice, and offer support. It will operate much like any share house, with all residents, including the mentors, sharing the responsibility for chores.

The service is looking for mentors with life experience who are willing to share that with young people, maturity, and possibly experience working with young people.

Mr Oerlemans said they would need a working with children check and criminal history check, and would ideally have some culinary skills.

The home for young people moving from residential care will accommodate two young people and two mentors.

Mr Oerlemans said he expected young people would stay in the home for anywhere from six months to two years. Residents of the home will be in education, training or employment.

Another slightly larger home will also be established in Bendigo for young people experiencing homelessness.

Mr Oerlemans said there were about 20 young people currently in residential care who would be eligible for the program.

Anglicare also sees many homeless youths seeking help, with an average of one young person a day approaching the service in search of housing options.

It is hoped the first young people in residential care will move into the home in March, and the other home will open its doors in March or April.

For information on being a mentor, visit the Anglicare Victoria website.