Ending youth homelessness in Victoria with Bridge It

Bridge It
Bridge It
Natalie Clarkson
by Natalie Clarkson
27 February 2023

The state of Victoria, Australia, is experiencing a youth homelessness crisis with 16% of all people experiencing homelessness aged between 15 and 24. Bridge It – an Australian charity supporting young people exiting Out Of Home Care– is on a mission to end this.  

Founded in 2021, Bridge It knows that homelessness is unnecessary and solvable. It wants to be part of the solution, believing that everyone has a right to safety, connection, and the choice of how and where to live. 

Carla Raynes is the CEO and Founder of Bridge It. Both she and her sister Jenna have worked in the homelessness field for years – often frustrated by Victoria’s urgent need for safe and affordable housing.  

Virgin Unite recently showed support for Carla and the cause by backing Bridge It with a flexible scale-up grant to assist the organisation to double the number of young people they support.

Bridge It
Bridge It

“It was a pleasure to hear Carla talk about Bridge It's impact in the youth homelessness space. Her dedication and leadership – and that of the entire The Bridge It team – is inspiring and is helping to address the unacceptable issue of youth homelessness in Australia. Virgin Unite is proud to support Bridge It and we encourage everyone who can, to share their story and promote their wonderful work,” said Sofi Llewellyn, relationship manager at Virgin Unite. 

The Bridge It team combines decades of experience across various parts of the homelessness sector, including drug and alcohol, mental health, family violence, and critically lived experience. This experience has informed the shape of Bridge It’s programmes and approach to work. In short, Bridge It: 

  • Provides homes that are safe, affordable, and available for 12 months plus 

  • Creates community networks by hosting group outings and activities, so residents can connect 

  • Focuses on recovery – offering therapeutic activities, such as massage, acupuncture, and art therapy. 

  • Provides individualised support – offering case management and peer mentoring that focuses on individual needs and assists residents with their goals 

  • Builds skills and capacity – offering various groups to help residents find work, learn how to cook, and manage relationships  

In 2022 Bridge It launched the Cocoon youth supportive housing programme in St Kilda, Victoria, to test the model and show its effectiveness.

“The programme is one-of-a-kind. The Cocoon provides real homes – with an additional focus on connection and skill-building,” said Carla Raynes, founder of Bridge It. “We’ve watched our residents’ lives change. Many of them feel they have a home for the first time. Our model assumes that, with stable housing and high-quality, flexible support, people can focus on their life goals and fulfil their aspirations. Ultimately, they can exit homelessness long-term.” 

Bridge It
Bridge It

The Cocoon provides a fully self-contained home for one year with onside support – including peer mentoring, case management, therapies and life and living skills. It exists to support female-identifying people aged 17 to 21 who are exiting Out Of Home Care, and are at risk of experiencing homelessness. Through staying at The Cocoon for a year, residents are able to stabilise their mental health, start to recover from childhood trauma, and work on life goals such as finding employment, engaging in education and building health relationships. 

Find out more about the impact Bridge It has had in its first year by reading its annual report. Visit Bridge It to find out more.