An innovative and unique space for young people to thrive

When you walk into the Brotherhood’s Education First Youth Foyer in Broadmeadows, you enter an airy, open communal space inside a tall, bright building. To the left is an open plan kitchen/dining area opening onto a sunny deck, and a large activity room with a pool table, musical instruments and couches. On the right is office space for staff, but here, unlike other types of assisted living or emergency accommodation, the spaces are integrated and students can come and go from the office as they need.

Above: Ralph loves the stability of foyer life, which means he can focus on study.

Education First Youth Foyers break the cycle of homelessness by providing young people aged 16 to 24 with study and career pathways and safe, secure and affordable accommodation on campus for up to two years. Students work with staff and mentors, who provide help with education, emotional support, financial skills and work pathways. Rather than focusing on challenges a student might have faced, the program supports student’s talents, strengths and goals. This builds their capability to shape their own solutions and engage with community on an equal footing.

Ralph, 20, had been struggling to get by after leaving a difficult situation. The instability of living day-to-day, between temporary shelter and share houses, filled Ralph with fear. “It was a real struggle. A big burden. You would never know if you would eat a meal or where you would sleep,” he says. Now, Ralph’s been living at the foyer for a year, and he’s thriving.

Ralph was matched with his mentor in October. She is a physiotherapist, which makes her a great fit as Ralph studies nursing. But it is also much more. “Mentors are not just a life coach,” explains Ralph. He and his mother are close, but she lives overseas, so having someone local really helps. “My mentor is like a mum to me,” he says.

Ralph also loves living with people he can relate to and believes being with others with similar experiences pushes him to work harder. And the foyer provides resources to lift young people out of hardship long-term. “If I hadn’t found the foyer, I wouldn’t see a good future in life,” he says.

Ralph’s currently working two part-time jobs and studying. It’s a lot, but he is determined. “I’m doing a Diploma of Nursing, and after that I’ll go into a bachelor’s,” he says. Ralph sees himself working in the community, “My dream is to help a lot of people. And as I help, I want to empower.”

Ralph has seen firsthand how tough it can be when you lose family support. “I want to say to all the younger people to be optimistic,” he says. “It’s going to get better. It’s not the end of the world.”

Learn more about Education First Youth Foyers at BSL.