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Homelessness in Australia

Homelessness in AustraliaDefinition of Homelessness in AustraliaThe most widely accepted definition of homelessness is the definition used by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. This definition is based on the idea that there are shared community cultural standards about the minimum accommodation acceptable in contemporary Australia. The approximate minimum for a single person (or couple) is a small rental flat with a bedroom, living room, kitchen and bathroom and some security of tenure provided by a lease. The ABS definition 6 identifies primary, secondary and tertiary categories of homelessness:- Primary homelessness includes people without conventional accommodation, such as people living on the streets or using cars or railway carriages for temporary shelter.

Definition of Homelessness in Australia- Secondary homelessness includes people who move frequently from one form of temporary shelter to another including boarding houses, emergency accommodation and short-term stays with other households.

- Tertiary homelessness refers to people staying in boarding houses on a medium to long-term basis, defined as 13 weeks or longer. They are homeless because their accommodation does not have the characteristics identified in the minimum community standard.

How many people do you believe are homeless in Australia?Some hints:Australias unemployment rate hovers between 4.8% and 5.4%Australia has a population of approx 22, 805, 114Approximately 16 million of those are adults

Homeless rates in AustraliaAdequate housing is a human right and is part of having a quality of life. However, each day 105, 000 Australians are without safe, secure and affordable housing.

Tonight half of Australia's homeless will stay with friends or family. About 2 in every 7 will find a bed in a boarding house. A lucky 1 in every 7 will find a bed in the homeless service system. 1 in every 7 will sleep rough on the streets of our cities and towns.

The researchers estimated that 25,000 to 30,000 Australian youth experience a period of homelessness each year, and that most homeless students drop out of school.

Causes of Youth HomelessnessMental Illness - Mental health issues are more prevalent among homeless youth than the overall population of young people in Australia. In some cases, mental health is implicated in a young person becoming homeless, although it may be the case that the deterioration in the mental health of other family members tips young people into homelessness. However, becoming homeless is also an unhealthy lifestyle. There is evidence that psychological and psychiatric problems may result from homelessness.Senior Colleges - Senior secondary colleges are separate schools for young people completing Years 11 and 12. Causes of Youth HomelessnessA senior secondary college is likely to have at least three to four times more homeless students than a conventional high school. There is less monitoring and supervision of students, and marginal students can easily get lost. Senior colleges do not work so well for young people who are troubled by family breakdown or other major issues in their lives. Alternative family types - 80 per cent of homeless students come from alternative family types. The largest group (38 per cent) were from single parent households (including parents who were separated or divorced).

Causes of Youth HomelessnessOne-third (33 per cent) of the young people were from blended families and nine per cent were from other family types (e.g. brought up by relatives, step parents etc.).Alcohol and Substance Abuse - Drug and alcohol use by Australian young people has declined in recent years. However, many service providers report that drug and alcohol use among homeless young people has increased over twenty years. The wider availability of stimulants such as ICE has meant that the type of substances being used has shifted somewhat. The origins of drug and alcohol use are diverse: sometimes it is from a permissive family situation, as self-medication of mental health conditions, or, more commonly,

Causes of Youth Homelessnessas a practice acquired by contact with other young people who are homeless. There are serious consequences for homeless youth with drug and alcohol use problems, including gaining access to supported accommodation or remaining in accommodation. SAAP agencies reported difficulty obtaining timely specialist help for their clients. Continued drug use can further harm some already worsening yet important relationships in young peoples lives and lead to petty crime that ultimately involves them with police and the criminal justice system.Indigenous Australians - Indigenous young people are more likely to experience homelessness than non-Indigenous youth.Causes of Youth HomelessnessAlthough in many ways the drivers of homelessness are similar, there are some significant differences. Indigenous Australians have been described as suffering spiritual homelessness which stems from dispossession and forced removal from homelands and family.

Low housing affordability - Over the past 20 years the affordability of housing has deteriorated decreasing by 140 per cent between 1986 and 2006. In 1986, 3.6 years of average income was needed to purchase a home; by 2006 the purchase price required 7.0 years pay. The total stock of public housing has declined and rental vacancies have reached an all-time low.

Causes of Youth HomelessnessInstitutional children - Children in institutional care or in juvenile justice settings are not included as homeless in terms of the formal definition in use, although they are particularly vulnerable groups, which experience higher rates of homelessness upon leaving these secure arrangements. They are at-risk but not actually homeless while in secure accommodation. While the adequacy of care and protection programs and services was raised in evidence to the Inquiry, a full examination of these issues would require an inquiry dedicated solely to this matter.Poverty - The Burdekin Report quoted a submission from Barnardos Australia highlighting the causal relationship between family poverty and youth homelessness: Poverty is highly correlated with social isolation, alcoholism, drug abuse and domestic violence. Where these factors are present there is a greater incentive for a young person to leave home and subsequently be at risk of homelessness. The poor are likely to have inadequate housing which may increase the stress on a young person to leave home.

Causes of Youth HomelessnessMigrant Australians - The Inquiry heard that at-risk and homeless young people from culturally and linguistically diverse families and young people from refugee families report problems with cultural and generational conflict. The young people come to school, and they assimilate really quickly and take on Western values and want to do Western things: Australian things. So we often see family dysfunction and breakdown with the clash of cultures. The one thing that parents could reasonably expect to control is their young people. Their lives have had a lot of things out of control, so a lot of effort goes into raising their children the way they see they should. So, it causes huge conflict if the kids start rejecting those ways.Causes of Youth HomelessnessFamily Conflict - In Melbourne, the manager of a youth refuge spoke of his observations about why young people become homeless:The litany of the causes of youth homelessness is extensive. We can all rattle off a list that will include such things such as mental illness, abuse, poverty, problematic substance abuse, pregnancy, etc, etc, etc. We see these young people every day. However, there seems to be a commonality amongst the young people who come to the refuge, a feature that is the same no matter the configuration of other issues. That is that each young person has experienced the erosion or the defeat of a significant relationship, usually with an adult and usually with an adult, who, in an ideal world, has the role of providing unconditional love and care. And our experience - and we are sure in the experience of other service providers - this is an inescapable reality. Some of these relationships can be restored and some will not be and some should not be.

Typical Youth Homelessness PathwayThe first discernible indicator of homelessness is when the young people make a tentative break from home and family. This is the first biographical transition along the career trajectory. It is denoted by a young person leaving home for at least one night without their parents permission. This is usually called runaway behaviour, and most young people who run away stay temporarily with friends or relatives. Running away is a major biographical experience for most teenagers, and it can be made sense of in different ways. In some case, it will be a once only experience and the young person will not run away again. In other cases, the underlying family problems are not resolved, and some young people begin to move in and out of home.

Typical Youth Homelessness PathwayNext stage - Permanent Break. Some young people who make a permanent break want to remain at school. However, they need support to make the transition to independent living. A second group want to remain at school, but they become overwhelmed by other problems in their life and think about dropping out. Support at school is particularly important for these young people. A third group leave school at about the same time as they make the permanent break. Typical Youth Homelessness PathwayFinal stage - chronic homelessness. This denotes the acceptance of homelessness as a way of life. It is a biographical transition which takes place gradually, rather than a dramatic event. These teenagers come to accept petty crime, substance abuse, drug dealing an