Identifies practices effective in assisting young people avoid or exit homelessness.
• Articulates practices young people perceive as having most impact on their lives.
• Value of long-term, holistic, integrated care and centrality of relationships.
• The voices of young people with lived experience need to be heard by policy makers.
• Practice-based study as innovative methodology for investigating youth services.
In youth homelessness policy, outcomes-based performance management and evidence-based practice predominate. Despite policymakers articulating a need to improve the evidence base to inform service provision for young people vulnerable to homelessness, there are limited evidence-based studies investigating the effectiveness of different service models. Additionally, the voices of homeless young people are often absent or unheard in policy discussions and program development. Underpinned by a practice-based approach and gathering both quantitative and qualitative data, this study investigates the perspectives and experiences of young people involved with an Australian social justice organisation and identifies the practices that they perceive as having the most significant positive impacts on their lives. The views of young people challenge government policy settings which this study suggests do not give sufficient weight to key indicators such as a sense of belonging, control over one’s life and hope for the future or to relationships embedded in long-term, holistic, integrated care. In order to improve policy and practice, it’s critical that the voices and knowledge of young people with lived experience are heard by decision and policymakers.