Almost one in six young people aged 15-19 has experienced homelessness, according to a new Mission Australia survey, with “devastating” and long-lasting effects for those experiencing the burden of insecure housing.
While the 2016 Census found there were 43,500 young people reporting as homeless, Mission Australia said that its service experience pointed to this figure being much greater in reality.
Its Youth Survey 2017 found that 15.6 per cent of young people had experienced homelessness. The figure was reached by looking at “hidden homeless”, which includes people living in refuges, transitional accommodation or couch surfing.
Mission Australia chief executive James Toomey said the survey also gave an insight into how homelessness was affecting young people.
“It allows us to understand how their experiences differ from those young people who haven’t experienced homelessness, such as experiencing low self-esteem and happiness, and gives us some clues as to what supports are most needed,” he said.
Outcomes of homelessness can include a higher incidence of reported self-harm and suicide, a greater likelihood to leave school earlier, and higher unemployment rates.
He said the survey was a stark reminder of the importance of taking action on homelessness.
“To do nothing risks creating a generation of young people who carry the mental and physical scars of homelessness into their adult lives,” Mr Toomey said.
“We know that too many young people in Australia don’t know where they’re going to sleep from night to night, which means it’s much harder to think about what they want to do in the future.”
Mission Australia is part of the Everybody’s Home campaign, which is calling for a commitment to end youth homelessness by 2030.
“For many years, the community sector has been putting forward evidence-based solutions to end youth homelessness, but sadly we see from the recent census that numbers are still growing,” Mr Toomey said.
Part of the campaign involves advocating for the creation of more affordable housing, particularly that which is appropriate for young people. As we reported this week, the affordable housing sector is being additionally burdened by the conclusion of the National Rental Affordability Scheme, with no suitable replacement yet to be announced.
Other policy recommendations include investment in prevention, early intervention and outreach; increased educational engagement of those at risk of homelessness; preventing people leaving state care into homelessness; and rapidly rehousing young people who experience homelessness.
“We know what works, but it needs funding, leadership, continuous commitment and shared effort, which will best be achieved through a national homelessness strategy,” the report says.