Right now there are over 100, 000 people across Australia who don't know where they will sleep tonight - they are without safe, secure and affordable housing.
One fifth of the nation’s homeless population – more than 20,000, live among us in our own Victorian communities:
• Half of all those experiencing homelessness might be described as “ the lucky ones” - they will stay with friends or family.
• About 2 in every 7 will find a bed in a boarding house.
• 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.
When we think of homelessness we usually think of not having a house to live in. But being homeless is much more than that. It is also about having little or no safety or security.
A person experiencing homelessness may have no shelter at all or shelter that compromises their health or safety.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) defines homelessness as:
• currently living on the street
• living in crisis or refuge accommodation
• living in temporary arrangements without security, for example, moving between the residences of friends or relatives, living in squats, caravans or dwellings, or living in boarding houses
• living in unsafe family circumstances, for example, where child abuse or domestic violence is a threat or has occurred
• living on a very low income and facing costly expenses or a personal crisis.
There are many reasons why people become homeless:
• lack of affordable housing
• poor physical or mental health
• intellectual disability
• drug and alcohol misuse
• family and relationship breakdown
• family violence
• physical and/or sexual abuse.
All these factors can cause a person to become homeless. They can also be one of the reasons why a person remains homeless.
There is a common view that those experiencing homelessness are middle-aged, alcoholic men who sleep on a park bench. However, this cliché is becoming more and more inaccurate.
While anyone has the potential to become homeless, there are some groups who are more vulnerable:
• Young people under the age of 25 make up half of the homeless population. One in every 51 girls aged 15 -19 used a homeless service last year.
• The number of children using homeless services has increased by around 15, 000 in the past few years.
• Indigenous Australians are also largely over represented. Although they make up only 2% of the country’s population, they make up 18% of people residing in shelters.
In Australia, one in 200 people face homelessness every night.
Why is it happening? Why in a country which enjoys more wealth than ever before are there greater numbers of individuals facing homelessness? And why are these numbers on the rise?
One thing I will say is that it is certainly not by choice... no one chooses to become homeless. Homelessness is complex and poses great challenges for us as a community and as an organisation. Understanding the gravity of the problem enables us to take steps towards addressing homelessness and improving the lives of those who are affected by it and who need our support.
- John Blewonski, CEO VincentCare Victoria, February 2016