The teen years are tough — from developing bodies and identities, to dealing with school stress. But while others can worry about exams and storm off to their bedroom to seek refuge from the world, for about 2000 young people in WA — including many in Albany — that is not an option. They have nowhere to go. The 2016 Australian Bureau of Statistics Census reported at least 1949 WA children and young people were homeless, with another 2230 living in marginal housing such as caravan parks and improvised dwellings. But these figures are largely underestimated because of the often hidden nature of youth homelessness, says Albany Youth Support Association chief executive Ricky Burges. “It arises from a very difficult home situation where they might have been abandoned by their family or experiencing physical or sexual abuse,” she said. AYSA’s Young House provides a three-month crisis accommodation option for homeless youth. The facility has eight beds — four for males and four for females. In the past year, 74 people as young as 15 have sought refuge at Young House. Because of space restrictions, 53 were housed and the rest were helped to find accommodation, either through advanced housing or a private rental “That’s only eight we can house,” Ms Burges said. “People don’t realise, but there are so many more out there who don’t have any support and have somehow gone underground. “They’re sleeping in their car, sleeping at their mate’s or, worse still, on the street in a very vulnerable situation. “I just read an email that in these last couple of weeks we’ve had two young people (in the community) take their own lives, and that breaks my heart because in my imagination that’s somebody we missed or didn’t get to support.” Young House has been giving homeless youth a safe place to stay since 1982, but the demand has outstripped the facility and Ms Burges said the organisation was desperate to get another crisis house. She said Young House was more than just a refuge. “These young people are in a period of their lives where they need to learn about trusting adults and developing life skills, but some of these people don’t know how to wash their clothes, tie their shoelaces or even brush their teeth,” she said. “Some of them don’t have family or anyone to teach them these things and they have to go out into the world, live and survive. “And often underneath there’s a lot of anger, frustration at being let down and a lot of broken trust.” Young House manager Kiri Floyd said the staff focused on developing emotional regulation skills, building and maintaining positive relationships, and reducing the shame and blame associated with trauma. Many residents are also referred to mental health support services as they struggle with issues such as anxiety, depression, substance abuse, family violence, eating disorders and self-harm. Ms Floyd said residents were case-managed to identify their needs, plan their exit and provide referrals to other services. “They’re in that critical period when you form your identity and many wouldn’t have had a good role model telling them what’s right or wrong, helping them shape that moral compass,” she said. “So this isn’t just a service that helps get them off the streets — we help them move on and transition.” Seventeen-year-old Tamzyn said her life changed when she came to Young House a year ago. “When I came to Young House, it was the first time in a long time that I felt ... sure that somebody was willing to help me and actually teach me how to be an adult,” she said. Tamzyn said she was scared of cooking after she burned herself as a child, but that changed at Young House. “Each night we had a resident and a worker cook for us, so I got to pick a worker I was comfortable with and they helped me cook,” she said. “You've got to be able to be in a good spot at this age because this is what makes you into a person.” Ms Burges said the wait list for young people requiring crisis accommodation was growing. “There is a wait list of around eight to 10 people,” she said. “Last year some clients remained on the wait list for up to two months.” Last week, AYSA and Advance Housing representatives attended a meeting with Youth Minister Dave Kelly. “ We’re currently exploring an exciting project, which, if it comes to fruition and we can secure funding, will enable AYSA to double the amount of accommodation we can provide for homeless young people,” Ms Burges said. “The other thing I’m trying to build on is giving these people the experience of having a family, and Kiri had the great idea of adopting a grandad or a grandmother to come visit the house.” Ms Burges said the staff were often the first adults the residents trusted, and she wanted to find someone who could share the warm feeling grandparents gave their grandchildren. “We’d love to have them come over for a Sunday dinner and just spend a little bit of time with us,” she said.