Improving the lives and future prospects of homeless people in the Sydney area saw UTS Law student Loki Ball win the 2011 NSW Youth Volunteer of the Year Award earlier this month.
The award was in recognition for his commitment and time given to charities including Community Legal Centres NSW, The Red Cross, the Mathew Talbot Hostel and a number of other charity organisations that work with homeless people.
Loki said that his interests in volunteer work grew when he finished high school, as he become more involved in working with homeless people.
"Research has shown that around 15 per cent of people who become homeless have a mental illness. After three months of being in this position it jumps to almost 80 percent, so it is the situation of homelessness that is the problem," he said.
"There are a number of reasons why people become homeless; it can be social exclusion, domestic violence, loss of income or a combination of all. Children and young people are a really vulnerable group as 40 per cent of homeless Australians are under the age of 24. Through my work I want to close the entry points to homelessness, as well as find an exit strategy for those experiencing systemic homelessness.
"It is difficult to relate to them and easy to ignore them, but we need to stop this negative social exclusion by engaging younger people with the issue."
Loki has launched a new social media start-up called Sydney Youth Engagement (SYE) to compile a compressive database of community engagement and volunteer opportunities for young people within Sydney.
"I feel that young people should be encouraged to participate in the community sector so they can establish a life-long pattern of volunteering – SYE will help provide these opportunities and strengthen youth engagement."