Foyers in Australia - The journey so far

Origins of the Foyer

The Youth Foyer Movement has a long history. Developed in many different social, historical and political contexts – including in France, the United Kingdom (UK), the United States (US) and Australia – multiple definitions and models of the Foyer exist.1

In essence, Foyers provide integrated learning and accommodation for young people who are homeless or at risk of experiencing homelessness. They offer them the time, personalised attention, mentoring, coaching and access to opportunities needed to develop education and training pathways that lead to sustainable employment. Foyers are designed for young people who have the capacity to engage in education and training, but are prevented from participating due to a range of structural, institutional and personal barriers. 

In Australia, EFY Foyers located on, and structurally linked with, TAFE campuses or other mainstream educational settings represent an innovative approach.2 However, Foyer models are not new to Australia or other international contexts. 

Youth Foyers in France 

Foyer is a French term for ‘hearth’. Foyers pour Jeunes Travailleurs – or literally Foyers for Young Workers – first emerged in the late 1890s in France,3 as a cheap form of accommodation for young people who needed to move away from home for work. Later, in the post-industrial, regeneration era following World War II, a vast network of more than 450 Foyers, providing 45,000 beds, was established throughout France. These Foyers provided accommodation for young people in areas where there were labour shortages. However, by the 1980s the focus of the French Foyers shifted to include accommodation for unemployed and homeless young people. 

Foyers in the United Kingdom 

By the early 1990s, the UK was faced with an increasing and visible homelessness problem and high unemployment, particularly among young people. UK policy makers, led by Sheila McKechnie from Shelter (a homelessness charity), proposed the French Foyers as a possible model to solve these challenges and five UK pilots were established. Following the success of these pilots, and after the election of Tony Blair’s ‘New Labour’ government in the mid-1990s, there was a major expansion of Youth Foyers in the UK. 

Currently the UK has more than 135 Foyers, ranging in size from five beds to 200 beds that engage with at least 10,000 young people a year. Their development has been led by the Foyer Federation, established in 1992, which is the peak or network body for all accredited Foyers. The Federation supports the growth and development of Foyers in the UK, as well as providing accreditation and quality assurance for organisations wishing to become Foyers.

The Foyer Federation defines Foyers as:

Integrated learning and accommodation centres providing safe and secure housing, support and training for young people aged 16–25.

The definition of what it means to be a Foyer in the UK is articulated in more detail through the Foyer Federation’s accreditation framework entitled the Foyer Status Mark. This proposes three core tests of ‘Foyerness’:

  1. The focus meets the development needs and goals of young people in transition.
  2. The approach makes a positive ‘offer’ of integrated skills, resources and opportunities accessible for young people.
  3. The relationship is based on a formal commitment – or the Deal – between the young person, the service and the community, which is a condition of continued engagement.

For more details visit foyer.net.

Other international Foyers

The Chelsea Youth Foyer based in New York is one of only two accredited Foyers in the US. Established by Good Shepherd Services, in collaboration with Common Ground Community (as facility manager), the Foyer works with 40 young people who have aged out of foster care, have nowhere to go, and are homeless or at risk of homelessness. It focusses on supporting young people to live independent lives following their two-year stay. Chelsea Foyer is the first in the US to be accredited by the UK Foyer Federation and claims substantial success with its clients achieving stable housing and employment. 

For more details visit the Chelsea Foyer website.

History of the Foyer in Australia

Foyers first emerged in Australia in the early 2000s in Sydney, Wollongong and Melbourne. Considered the first Foyer in Australia, the Miller Live ’N’ Learn Campus in Sydney was established through the Live ’N’ Learn Foundation in 2003. Funded by the NSW Government’s Department of Family and Community Services through Housing NSW it operated until 2008 in its original form.

Designed as an Australian adaptation of the UK Foyer, the Live ’N’ Learn Campus comprised 28 self-contained campus style units for young people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. By adopting Foyer-type principles, more than 140 young people were assisted into study during its period of operation. However, following a number of changes and challenges, Housing NSW re-tendered the service as the Miller Youth Hub in 2009. Mission Australia now operates the Youth Hub, which includes a residential accommodation facility (Foyer-type campus), a juvenile justice support service and an outreach support service.4

The Illawarra Youth Foyer in Wollongong, New South Wales was established by Southern Youth and Families Services and opened in 2004. It provides medium- to long-term supported housing for young people aged 16–23 who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. The Foyer works with young people who are engaged, or preparing to engage, in education, training, pre-employment and employment support. A variety of accommodation and housing facilities are offered including onsite support and dispersed independent units. 

For more details visit the Southern Youth Foyer Project.

In 2004, Melbourne City Mission developed Victoria’s first Foyer. This pilot program, known as the Youth Transitions Model, was successfully evaluated, recurrently funded by the Victorian Office of Housing and renamed Step Ahead. The Step Ahead/Lion Garden program provides eight apartments across dispersed sites at Lion Garden in the CBD, at St Kilda, and at seven other accommodation sites. Funded and managed by a consortium of services – including Melbourne City Mission, DHS, Gospel Hall Trust, HomeGround (now Launch Housing) and Housing Choices Australia – Lion Garden offers young people aged 16–25 who are homeless or at risk of homelessness three-year supported accommodation with access to education and work, independent living skills, and community and leisure activities.

Current Foyers in Australia

In Australia there are currently at least 14 Foyers or Foyer-type services across all States and Territories except Tasmania and the Northern Territory. Unlike the UK, most are relatively small, accommodating between 10 and 35 young people. These Foyers operate with varying accommodation models, including congregate facilities, dispersed housing, and networked or mixed accommodation options. 

The development of Youth Foyers in Australia has been slow compared to the UK and the rest of Europe. For example, in the UK there are more than 10,000 Foyer beds compared with approximately 300 across Australia. Unlike the UK, Foyers in Australia have been developed on an ad hoc basis by individual agencies and select government departments. This is changing with the establishment of the Australian Foyer Foundation in 2008 to support the development, quality assurance and accreditation of Foyers in Australia. The UK Foyer Federation has partnered with the Australian Foyer Foundation to assist these activities.

Foyer Foundation in Australia

Similar to the Foyer Federation in the UK, in 2008 the Foyer Foundation in Australia was established to agree on the vision, purpose and values of Foyers in the Australian context. Although the Foyer Foundation has not as yet become an accrediting body, it has agreed on the following features for Australian Foyers. 

Vision

All young people in Australia have the opportunity to fulfil their potential.

Purpose

The Foyer Foundation promotes the concept of Youth Foyers. It supports the development of an Australian (and New Zealand) network of high-quality, locally-based, integrated projects bringing together a range of services specifically tailored to help individual young people discover and realise their aspirations. 

Values

The Foyer Foundation values:

  • Young people as key partners in the delivery of Foyers
  • Outcomes based on evidence
  • High-quality, reflective practice
  • Communities coming together to support young people to achieve their aspirations
  • Innovation, persistence, flexibility and openness.

For more details visit foyer.org.au.

Foyers provide integrated learning and accommodation for young people who are homeless or at risk of experiencing homelessness.

Related Material - Origins of the Foyer Part 1

Related Material - Origins of the Foyer Part 2

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Footnotes


Artwork title: Bungil
Artist: Aunty Janice Bakes (Elder, Indigenous Education Centre)

Bungil is the protector of the land and the creator