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August 4 marks the start of Homelessness Week, an opportunity to bring the issue of homelessness into the spotlight.

Right now there are more than 116,000 Australians who are homeless. Two in every five of these people are under 25.

CareSouth’s Shoalhaven Youth Support Service (SYSS) helps up to 173 young people in the Shoalhaven each year who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

Of these young people 70% have left home to escape family violence, child abuse or family breakdown, more than 65% have a diagnosed mental health issue and 34% identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.

This year CareSouth teamed up with Socks n Jocks as part of an innovative idea to ensure vulnerable young people in the Shoalhaven wouldn’t be left out in the cold this winter.

Dozens of young people from our SYSS program were given new pairs of socks and jocks as part of the ‘Wear in this Together’ campaign to highlight the struggle faced by those who have no fixed address, are on lengthy public housing waiting lists, couch surf or sleep in their cars each night.

The initiative is the brainchild of Grace Rey, a former real estate agent, who understands the devastating impact homelessness has on the more than 28,000 young Australians, aged 12-25, who have nowhere to live every night.

As winter loomed, Grace called on the Shoalhaven and Illawarra communities to donate socks and jocks to homeless people in a bid to “provide some comfort to those who have fallen on hard times and are often invisible”.

Shoalhaven Youth Support Service caseworker Ash McHugh said a tub of socks and jocks was gratefully accepted and distributed among young people from SYSS’s crisis support and outreach programs.

“SYSS supports over 173 vulnerable young people and our aim is to empower them with the skills and knowledge to be resilient and learn how to reach out for support when needed,” said Ash.

“Initiatives like Socks n Jocks, not only provides practical support for young people, but raises awareness of the prevalence of homelessness and the impact it has on communities as a whole”.

Ms Rey is a passionate advocate for those who are homeless and her goal is to expand the campaign to other communities in the future, in a bid to keep homelessness in the national spotlight.

“Socks n Jocks not only give homeless people a tangible item but also some dignity, it humanises them when often they are invisible,” said Grace.

Grace hopes Homelessness Week, along with campaigns like Wear in this Together, will raise awareness and encourage governments and communities to dig deep to support those who are homeless, rather than turning a blind eye.

This week we will be sharing the inspiring stories of young people in the SYSS program to demonstrate the difference support and intervention makes in the lives of homeless youth.

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