Young people – those aged 16-24 in this case – who experience homelessness are up against multiple issues as they strive to escape the homelessness cycle.

Even if they gain some work and get back on their feet, not having the financial skills to manage tax, superannuation, budgeting and crediting can land or keep many young people on the street.

“An essential part of our work is ensuring participants are paid for and valued for their work and ensuring they can feel confident in managing their money and setting themselves up for the future,” says Tenille Gilbert, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Society Melbourne.

Created by a group of young people passionate about equity and equality for their peers, Society Melbourne is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to tackling youth homelessness.

In 2020, the organisation was a recipient of an ANZ’s Community Foundation grant that will be used to address the poor financial literacy skills of young people experiencing homelessness.

Tenille says the grant helped Society Melbourne develop a ‘Financial Wellbeing Module’ for its home.plate Hospitality Training Program, a program that provides paid hospitality training to young people who are at-risk of, or who have experienced homelessness.

“As an organisation focused on providing pathways towards sustainable independence for the young people we work with, tackling those multiple challenges is our focus,” she says.

Impact of COVID-19

Society Melbourne’s most immediate challenge was being able to operate its venues during COVID-19 lockdowns. Unfortunately, four out of five of its venues were forced to close which in-turn resulted in a dramatic reduction in the number of trainees onsite.

Tenille says for many people, social connectedness was one of the most difficult parts of the lockdown – a role the program would usually fulfil.

“We knew continuing to provide opportunities for connection among our trainees and to the Society Melbourne team was essential,” she says. “With this in mind, we developed online workshops and our Program Manager called trainees weekly to catch up and to provide as much support as possible.”

Partnering to improve financial literacy

Society Melbourne identified an opportunity to leverage ANZ’s award winning MoneyMinded Program. That program will be added as a financial literacy module to Society Melbourne’s home.plate.

“When participants start the home.plate program, they start earning an award rate wage – for some – for the first time in their life,” Tenille says.

“With this comes a responsibility to ensure they have the financial skills to utilise this new income in the most effective way possible.

“It was essential to educate our participants on what they should expect from a workplace in terms of pay rates and superannuation, for example, leading them to have a clear understanding of their rights and to being able to value and respect themselves in the workplace,” she says.

Tenille believes the pandemic highlighted how quickly our lives and support systems can be ripped away, particularly among young people who haven’t had the opportunity to create safety nets like personal savings for emergency situations.

“For young people, financial wellbeing is essential in understanding how they can best manage their money now to ensure they are set up for the future,” she says.

“Having a sound knowledge of financial wellbeing means they can create the independence needed to form the future of their choosing – it is empowering.”

Applications open for 2021 ANZ Community Foundation grants

Until 16 April 2021 charitable organisations from around Australia can apply for grants of up to $30,000 to fund projects aiming to advance financial wellbeing, housing, environmental sustainability and other projects that assist local communities to thrive.

  • Financial wellbeing, particularly for under-represented and disadvantaged people in the community, including initiatives that improve economic participation. For example, building financial literacy and vocational skills and providing access to meaningful work
  • Environmental sustainability through initiatives that restore and conserve the natural environment or which contribute to water stewardship, lower carbon emissions, and waste minimisation
  • Housing access through initiatives and programs that support those experiencing or at risk of homelessness or that provide support for people living with disability
  • Other community projects that assist local communities to thrive

In 2020, ANZ granted a total of $250,000 to 16 community organisations. Since the program began in 1988, more than 880 grants valued at $5.6 million have been distributed.

Since its inception, home.plate has helped lift more than 40 young people out of the homelessness cycle.

“Our young people are some of the most resilient and courageous young people I have ever met. Unfortunately, however, many of them have been forced to build this resilience due to a series of unfortunate life circumstances,” Tenille says.

“Issues that continue to emerge for young people vary with mental health and housing stability continuing to be major challenges that they face. We simply create an environment of trust and support they know they can always return to.”