By Ryan Bullivant
Youth110 Practice Manager, Ryan Bullivant, is St John’s Youth Services longest serving employee, and has been supporting to young people break the cycle of homelessness for more than 17 years. Ryan began his career with SJYS in 2005 as a youth worker at the Burdekin youth shelter and was the inaugural manager of the SJYS Foyer when it opened in 2011. As the Practice Manager of youth110 since it opened in 2012, Ryan has been on the front lines of service evolution at SJYS.
It is a time of celebration as youth110 turns ten.
September 2012 marked the monumental moment youth110 opened its doors.
This was the end of a 40-year era in South Australia for youth crisis shelter accommodation and made way for a modern studio apartment complex that would not only to provide young people with a safe and secure place to stay, but also a strong foundation to build successful futures.
Situated in the vertical community of the UNO apartment complex on Waymouth Street in Adelaide’s CBD, youth110 revolutionised how young people experiencing homelessness in the Adelaide metro area are supported. Youth110 made it possible to accommodate any presenting groups of young people including singles, couples, young families and single parents and was a world first in accommodating young single dads with their children. UNO and youth110 created opportunities to develop meaningful partnerships with local community and the community services sector that have strengthened opportunities for our young people, our organisation and local community.
A dynamic new building and a new service in the city brought together people from like-minded organisations to ensure people living, visiting and working in the UNO community feel welcome, safe and are offered abundant opportunities to thrive. Over the years it has been important for us to recognise and celebrate significant community events where we can draw upon the strengths and talents of our young people as well as create placemaking opportunities for the greater UNO community. It has been a highlight to celebrate occasions focused on our First Nations people, the LGBTQIA+ communities and culturally diverse communities, as well as showcasing young people’s talents at SALA festivals and linking our young people to fun ‘normal’ activities such as camping, water skiing, movie nights, pizza days, Christmas and birthday celebrations. The successes in this area have been made possible by our wonderful UNO partnerships consisting of the South Australian Housing Authority, Urban Communities/Unison and most recently Believe Housing Australia.
Youth110 has attracted global attention, and over the past decade hundreds of people have visited us. This has been an educational experience and ‘light bulb’ moment for the many international visitors, including representatives from President Obama’s Administration, who have now seen first-hand how well accommodating young people experiencing homelessness can be done. The service has also attracted media attention, with stories from youth110 and its residents being featured on television and in articles.
Over the last ten years, youth110 has provided over 108,500 nights of accommodation to over 1,450 young people and more than 100 accompanying children. With the majority of people residing with us for three months, it is a busy time in their lives as they work toward their personal goals while often facing complex challenges. With a team of professional and dedicated youth110 support workers and the flexibility and individualised approach that youth110 offers, the success stories of young people have been numerous and inspiring.
During the ten years of youth110’s operation, 20% of all young people have returned home, 15% moved into private rental properties, 13% transitioned in supported accommodation options with a further 22% moving into share propertied and properties with friends and over 20% moving into other sustainable accommodation options. During our operation we have seen increases in young people returning home and moving into supported accommodation, while there have been slight decreases in young people moving into private rental.
Elevate: a new model of care
Moving from a traditional congregate care model to a ‘housing-first’ approach enabled St John’s Youth Services to develop an entirely new approach to supporting young people. From this ELEVATE was born. At the leading edge of innovative service delivery for youth homeless service provision, Elevate is an evidence-informed program that has been shaped by youth homelessness, adolescent development, and best-practice youth program literature.
While the aims and essence of Elevate remain the same ten years on, over the years Elevate has continued to grow and develop into a robust practice approach that is therapeutic, effective, and innovative. As Elevate continues to evolve, it will provide our team with the essential therapeutic and reflective tools required for the development of best possible practice.
Each year presents new challenges and opportunities. The global pandemic confronted us with both, requiring us to develop and refine operations and safety practices for young people and workers. Since then, we have needed to direct our creativity and energy into securing housing outcomes in an increasingly challenging environment, as the cost of living sky rockets, housing markets become even more unaffordable and our young people are increasingly sidelined in the competition for properties. However, we continue to prove that in the face of adversity, we will always find a way to prevail. Despite the changing world and the complex lives some of our young people have experienced, I will always remain optimistic about what we can all achieve together.
For me, the true strength of youth110 remains in its flexibility and individualised approach for young people and support workers. Moving away from the shelter model has created a service that is less reliant on a welfare response and more focused on the importance of building meaningful relationships that foster independence. This approach has encouraged workers to cultivate a professional identity, work style and practice approach that provides young people with genuine and honest experiences focussed on their individual needs and strengths. The results speak for themselves. While repeat ‘clients’ were the norm in our old shelters, at youth110 more than 90% of our young people stay only once, with the vast majority being supported into long term sustainable housing at the end of their stay with us. There is undisputed proof that youth110 and the approaches we endorse work.
I would like to acknowledge the amazing support workers I have had the privilege of working alongside for the past ten years, including more than 70 employees and over 40 university students. Their individual contributions have each been instrumental to the growth and success of youth110, and I have no doubt their experiences and learning while at youth110 have been a significant part of their professional lives and helped shape the amazing workers they are today. Thank you for the all the support, dedication and perseverance you have provided to our young people. You are to be congratulated.
For those who are still with us – get ready, there is still much more work to be done.
I also offer a huge congratulations to every young person who has called youth110 home. What strength and determination you have shown. What a challenging path you have walked. Your achievements are inspiring. Continue to strive and be proud of who you are. Thank you for letting us into your lives and trusting us when trust was lost. It is always a privilege to witness your growth and success and I wish you all the success for your futures.
As always, I would also like to pay recognition and thank our CEO, the Board of St John’s Youth Services and all our supporters over the last decade. Your governance, belief, and support in what we do is truly appreciated, and an integral part of youth110’s success.
The past ten years have certainly been a journey of discovery into best practice and creating endless opportunities for the young people we have had the privilege of supporting. When I reflect on my 17 years with St John’s Youth Services, our accommodation buildings, service models, approaches, systems and partnerships are unrecognisable to those of the past. What does remain the same are the passion, values and ambitions that drive all of us at SJYS.
We have always believed in our young people. We believe in their strengths and the value of their individuality and contributions. What a remarkable achievement to see how far St John’s Youth Services has come, and to look forwards toward the bright future youth110 and St John’s Youth Services are creating – watch this space!