Youth Homelessness, Mental Health Impacts

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Get Under Way (GUW)* is a youth-led organisation working to improve the mental health of young people experiencing homelessness or youth at risk of homelessness.

GUW envisions a world in which all young people have positive social connections, resilience to bounce back from life’s challenges, and are free from psychological distress.

GUW coordinates peer support groups for young people experiencing homelessness to get together and discuss their challenges in a safe and welcoming environment. They run weekly sessions at Neighbourhood Houses around Greater Melbourne. Sessions consist of a semi-structured discussion group, followed by participant-led social activities.

Social Impact Focus Areas

  • Disadvantaged Youth

  • Improved Quality of Life and Wellbeing

  • Reduced Psychological Distress

 * note: Get Under Way (GUW) is not the real name of an organisation for the purpose of this case study.

The Challenge

The experience of homelessness can have a devastating impact on individuals and families: emotionally, mentally and physically.

An estimated 44,000 young people are homeless in Australia. At least 30%, and perhaps as high as 85%, of people experiencing homelessness have a recognised mental health disorder, and could be up to 6 times more likely to commit suicide than people with stable housing.

GUW envisions a world in which all young people have positive social connections, resilience to bounce back from life’s challenges, and are free from psychological distress.

Outcomes and Evidence

While GUW are collecting some useful data, they do not have the capacity or capability to make the most of it; to understand the real impact of the program.

GUW use the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K10) to measure levels of psychological distress amongst the young people who participate in programs. Participants complete the K10 form on the way in and on the way out of each session. GUW record the results of every K10 survey in a CRM system, linked to each participant.

Each young person is also encouraged to participate in a one on one chat with a facilitator at some stage during each session. GUW have created their own custom survey for this purpose.

While their services are helping, they see the problem getting worse and people falling through the gaps.


Outcomes Focus to Change Peoples Lives

We knew the fantastic work that GUW was doing, by the change in the faces of the people attending the sessions and the de-stress they’d get over a cuppa and a chat with peers.

The semi-structured style was so good for young people, but the lack of rigour and structure was also causing issues between sessions as they’d fall through the gaps and progress was lost.

Luckily, we were able to pick this up in our initial fast-track onboarding session with the GUW team.  This helped us to collaboratively drill down on the change they were hoping to be part of, in the lives of the youth they serve.  

We all knew the outcomes and change focus was right as we set up on

What’s cool about this?   

Higher success rates, happier people and funding has become easier.

All onboarding is now able to be done remotely 🙂

Fast & Focussed Setup with the Minimum of Fuss ain’t your grandma’s impact management or evaluation software.  We didn’t need to go find the theory of change or other docs and meaninglessly copy and paste them across – what a waste of time that would be.  We’re focussing on improving outcomes and changing people’s lives here – not copy-paste.  😉

There’s a few mandatory fields to fill in:  Project Name, Project Description, Project Impacts, Desired Outcomes.  We also filled in the Main Beneficiary Group Demographics field and that group’s Desired Life Changes field, as well as the locations of the services.  We even set the project logo and banner image, as it’s always nice to have something that looks good.

From here, the AI guided the rest of the set up.  We selected from suggested standards and indicators the project is aligned with, as well being able to nominate the K10 indicator GUW were already using as a primary indicator for the project.  With the AI helping guide the setup, we had the project set within half an hour.

setup data selection for social impact indicators
There are over 250 data-connectors and thousands of indicators, recommended to provide the right insights.

Making Data (and reporting) Easy

Now we get to the serious part, as well as the fun part – what happens here sorta blows people’s minds a bit.  The AI provided an initial 15 indicators, based on recognised standards, that represent factors that would have a direct impact on the success of the outcomes.  One was the K10, another one directly related to mental health, but the others were around youth homelessness, family violence, education, food and exposures to drugs, health, medical and criminal issues.

We selected 7 out of the first 15 indicators to set up straight away – only two of these had a data-gap, in that we’d need to chat to one of the social-services partners for the data-feed for a couple of fields.  There were another 20 recommendations made (from the thousands in the system).  We selected two of these, so ended up with nine active indicators to connect our data sources to.  Selecting these from the recommendation list was just a tick in a checkbox, that we wanted to use each one.

Having set up the project workspace, the GUW team could then connect directly to the relevant fields in their CRM using a straightforward user authentication process; in order to bring survey results, as well as demographic data and other output data into the system.

At the same time we set-up the graph or visualisation type and hey presto – realtime visualisations were all set up on the project’s data dashboard!  We also helped set up a couple of other “personal” dashboards, one to share with their funding stakeholders and another one for one of their locations, so they can have automated local reporting and insights whenever they need.


WOW Dashboards and OMG Insights !!

Our partnership with GUW was a managed pilot; so, there were a LOT of times that we had catch-ups to uncover how we could get more meaningful insights from their data.  The important thing is being able to understand WHY certain actions were working in some situations, but not others.

So, we set up a couple of extra data-dashboards, specific to some of the systemic issues around youth homelessness and mental health.  The AI was already sending them notifications, to tell them one factor was affecting another.  While some anomalies were recognised, the AI advised some more indicators were needed to get the eight evidence.  So we hooked up the extra AI recommended indicators and also got the single field data connection auths from the partner agencies, which the AI had advised earlier were something we probably wanted to get.

These extra indicators and data-feeds enabled much deeper layering of data.  This method correlated thousands of relevant data points to internal data and linked outcomes.  GUW now has a profound realtime understanding of the gaps, as well as what is or is not good.  Additionally, they have been able to take some very timely early-intervention actions.

And … it is so cool seeing the AI insight notifications take them on a data-visualisation journey which shows the factors affecting the creation of their desired change.

While we helped manage the pilot, it really was the AI that did all the smart stuff - well, most of it anyway 😉

Social Impact Results

The 3-month pilot was a smashing success   🎉

Get Under Way rolled out this approach and system across all of their locations and improved their data-collation practices.  We even helped them deploy a check-in app, enabling support and feedback (surveys) between gatherings.

With the improved rigour around their data and reporting, GUW have had an uptick in funding … and their reporting is now live in realtime.


+ 36%

improved sense of self and control over self

- 17%

reduced severity distress & depression indicators

+ 12%

evidence based funding


improvements in the effectiveness of the program and starting to see drop in homelessness

Find out how we can put solutions like these to work for you.​