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If you’re a teenager, school is often the last thing on your mind! And if life at home gets so difficult you might end up on the street, it’s even harder to pay attention in class.

Through Berry Street’s Education First Youth Foyer program in Shepparton, in partnership with GOTAFE and Beyond Housing, young people at risk of homelessness have a safe place to live.

But there’s one condition: they must agree to continue their education, while engaging in projects that give back to their local community.

Jess came to Youth Foyer when she was struggling with Year 12 and had nowhere to live. Jess readily agreed to the requirements and was given her own furnished studio accommodation, where she shares laundry facilities, a kitchen, and communal study areas with 40 other young people.

Study-friendly housing and support is allowing Jess to undertake a degree in Community Services and Masters in Social Work at La Trobe University. Jess told Berry Street that she now supports herself, no longer needs Centrelink assistance and has even saved up and bought her own car!

In fact, over 150 students just like Jess have successfully completed the Certificate 1 in Developing Independence through GOTAFE since the program started in 2016, and are now studying a broad array of courses and subjects.

I get emotional about this place. It has helped me so much. Without the Youth Foyer I wouldn’t be where I am today and I would like to thank everyone for what they have done for us and I hope every other student who comes through these doors is impacted by what everyone does for them.


Anita McCurdy, Education First Youth Foyer Manager explains that “one of the hopes for the program is to break the cycle of homelessness for students. It also aims to keep them out of the public housing system so they can become self-sufficient with stable employment and housing.”

While in the program, students sign a tenancy, pay rent to Beyond Housing, and complete a Certificate 1 in Developing Independence. Through this process, they’re able to get a housing reference, making it easier for them to find a share house or apartment to rent when it’s time for them to live independently.