We need to end Youth Homelessness
The pathways young people follow into homelessness often differ from older groups, with family violence, neglect and breakdown being leading causes of young people leaving home. In these circumstances, living with parents just isn’t an option and these experiences cause significant harm, trauma and disruption to education, transition to employment and to the formation of stable and healthy social networks. These young people lack a support network and adults they can rely on, they are very much on their own.
Once homeless, young people find it difficult to complete their studies, have limited access to medicine, treatment and basic hygiene, and can be exposed to sexual exploitation, violence and social isolation. Homeless young people can also experience high levels of mental health problems, including anxiety, depression, behavioural problems and alcohol and drug misuse. Not surprisingly people who experience homelessness as a young person are more likely to experience homelessness later in life. However, we know that affordable, stable, appropriate social housing for young people with long term support offers a means to breaking the cycle of disadvantage.
Lack of youth appropriate social and public housing
For young people, finding stable affordable housing is extremely difficult, contributing to rising youth homelessness. Australia has a chronic, wide spread, rental crisis with a vacancy rate under 1% and with up to 80 people applying for each rental home. Young people are often on a lower income, devoid of rental references, or face discrimination due to their age, and are at therefore at the bottom of the application list. A study in April 2022 (Anglicare’s Rental Snapshot) showed there was just one property in the entire state of Victoria that was affordable on youth allowance — out of 19,000 properties. An impossible situation.
For young people, often in precarious employment, private rentals are unaffordable and unattainable. At the same time the social housing waitlist has blown out and there is a chronic lack of public or social housing aimed specifically at the needs of young people. In 2021 young people were allocated only 238 public housing tenancies in Victoria (only 2.9% leased to 15-24 yo’s) and there is no policy requiring housing providers to quarantine a percentage of their portfolio for younger people.
Share houses, once a popular option for young people, are also in short supply with The Feed on SBS recently reporting that obtained data from two of Australia’s biggest share accommodation websites, shows skyrocketing demand for rooms in every capital city. A spokesperson for Flatmates said 63,000 new members joined up in February, highlighting the massive return to shared accommodation compared to the same time last year. In Sydney, there are 14 people searching for rooms for every one room available. In Perth, the ratio is even worse at 16:1, and this has pushed up room costs.
Increasing numbers of youth needing housing
StreetSmart Community Partner:
“We have seen increasing levels of young people experiencing homelessness in recent times with more and more experiencing primary homelessness. There is a severe lack of affordable housing options with literally 0 affordable properties for a young person on youth allowance (affordability measured at 30% of income) at this current moment in the region.”
Trish Connolly, CEO of Yfoundations:
“We often hear about children and young people as the hidden homeless who are often couch- surfing or living in severely overcrowded dwellings. This [latest Census] data confirms what we have been saying, that children and young people continue to make up a significant proportion of our homeless population and there’s been a distinct and disappointing lack of progress in reducing these numbers. It reflect an increase in this extremely vulnerable cohort who experience some of the most dangerous and insidious forms of homelessness.”
Action You Can Take
The team at StreetSmart are fundraising through April to specifically support youth homelessness services and are also supporting Youth Homelessness Matters Day 2023 on 19th April. YHMD is a national day that aims to raise awareness and public discussion about child and youth homelessness. It’s a day to start conversations about sustainable and innovative solutions for supporting the needs of young people experiencing homelessness.
You can also share this page with your network or through social media to raise awareness of youth homelessness and advocate for an end to young Australians being unable to have a safe and secure place to call home.
Raising funds to support homeless youth into homes
This April we are raising funds to support youth facing homelessness into safe and stable housing, breaking the cycle of disadvantage. We are advocating for an end to Youth Homelessness and funds raised will help to provide safe and stable accommodation for young people experiencing or at risk of homelessness.