A SUPPORT group that helps disadvantaged girls and young women in Melbourne's eastern suburbs says its "hugely successful" program is struggling because of a $50,000 funding shortfall.
The Justice Empowerment Mission takes in people aged 16 to 26 in share houses in Croydon, Blackburn and Park Orchards.
JEM director Janine Houston said there were 16 women staying in the three houses and 180 females had passed through the system since the program was established 10 years ago.
"We get girls from all sorts of backgrounds. For some it's unsafe for them to be at home because their parents have drug or alcohol problems or may be abusive. Others are asylum seekers," Ms Houston said.
JEM tenants old enough to work are encouraged to find jobs and pay board, while those who cannot are expected to volunteer in JEM's head office in Croydon.
The organisation tries to place younger girls in high schools, but because many of the students struggle to fit in JEM set up its own alternative education program.
Ms Houston said the JEM approach had been a resounding success with 90 per cent of the program's clients remaining out of the justice system.
But despite its achievements, the program is struggling to meet its $190,000 annual funding requirement.
JEM did not receive any of the $2.26 billion allocated to Victorian non-government welfare agencies last year, instead relying on private donations and grants from the Adventist Development and Relief Agency.
Mid-last year, rising costs meant JEM was forced to cancel its education program, which had been attended by seven girls.
JEM's struggles come at a time when the government's residential care system is "under stress" and in need of "significant reform", according to the 2012 Victorian Vulnerable Children Inquiry.
In June 2011, there were 5500 children in state care. A Department of Human Services spokesman says about 480 disengaged children are in the state's residential care housing.
To support JEM or make a donation, call 9725 1181 or email firstname.lastname@example.org