Australian nonprofit shop helps homeless youth by giving them work, a solution others can copy

Phillip Palmer Image
Friday, October 15, 2021
Nonprofit retail shop helps homeless youth by giving them work
This nonprofit retail clothing shop in Australia offers young people experiencing homelessness a chance to alter their futures by going to work. It's a solution that other countries can learn from.

About 550,000 young people across the U.S. under the age of 24 experienced a homeless episode of longer than a week last year. They need stable housing, supportive connections and access to services to find a path to long-term success.

A small retail store in Melbourne, Australia thinks employment is also a piece of the puzzle and has created an eight-month internship to teach retail and interpersonal skills for young people affected by homelessness.

"Retail could play a huge part in getting these young people into work and create opportunities. So that's where we see this program sitting and operating. And where it can have a big impact," says Marcus Crook, co-founder of HoMie.

Homelessness of Melbourne Incorporated Enterprise, or HoMie, designs and sells streetwear, hoodies, T-shirts, sweaters and uses 100% of its profit to fund its Pathway Alliance Program and in partnership with other local organizations, recruits young people affected by homelessness for internships in retail.

"Work with us for eight months, we'll pay you. We'll do wrap-around support, set up real career pathways for you. And so I think the difference is that it's deep and meaningful. And we see that from our outcomes," says Social Impact Manager Ellen Jacobsen.

Part of their recruitment efforts centers on VIP days for any young person affected by homelessness who can come into their store to shop for free. Jacobsen explains why that is so important to the program.

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The nonprofit group LifeMoves in Northern California has created an interim housing community on a site that was previously used as a car storage facility.

"Everyone gets to shop for five free items of HoMie clothing, and we have haircuts and food and music, and we hang out and connect. And hopefully those young people who come into the VIP days will then also apply for the internship," Jacobsen said.

HoMie's Pathway Alliance Program places young people in stores throughout Melbourne, not just their own store, depending on the skills participants already have, or their interests and location. It's all funded by the community who shops with them.

"That's a really big part of it is that it's not just us doing the work. It's the whole community of Melbourne and Australia and whoever shops with us are helping support this program. So that's, it's really special," says Crook.

"It's been amazing working with these other retail brands, because they've been so onboard with our approach to working with young people. And they've come to do training with us," Jacobsen added.

It's a small program, still in its infancy, but it's a solution for helping young people every year change the trajectory of their life.