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23 September 2020
Words Jessica Morris
Melbourne’s second COVID-19 lockdown is taking a mental and physical toll on everyone, but it has become an especially tough time for vulnerable young people in the city.
Young people at The Salvation Army’s youth refuges in Melbourne are experiencing mul-tiple challenges, but staff are prioritising their wellbeing and future with cooking classes, a community garden, and ‘boredom buster’ and ‘care’ packages.
The situation is now bigger than face masks and social distancing for these young people – it’s beginning to threaten their future housing and employment opportunities, according to Claire Edmanson, who manages the Salvos’ two youth refuges in the city – in Fitzroy and St Kilda.
“Having been through the first lockdown, we have the benefit of knowing the challenges and the additional supports young people require,” said Claire. “But the difference this time around is that, emotionally, it’s having a bigger impact on the young people accessing our service, which mirrors the experience of the general population.”
The two centres are supporting 22 young people on-site and up to 70 off-site. Claire and her team have kept the young people’s welfare a priority during this challenging time, especially with many of them being forced to stay inside for longer periods.
Deemed an essential service, these youth refuges have remained open 24/7, but social-distancing restrictions mean only a third of the rotating staff can serve at a time. Thankfully, their commitment has made the transition easier.
“There is, of course, a constant risk of COVID- 19 within residential services, but we’ve had nothing but positive feedback and commitment from staff,” said Claire. “We just have really tried to make sure whenever possible that young people remain the focus of the work we do.”
The teams continue to take life one day at a time. The future is full of uncertainty for the youth they connect with, but they are committed to supporting them for the long haul. So, when COVID-19 restrictions lift, each of them will have the hope and future they deserve.