On any given night in Australia 105,000 people are homeless, and nearly half of these people are under 25. That's 50,000 young people without permanent accommodation.
Definition of "Homeless"
A person is generally defined as "homeless" when he or she has inadequate access to conventional shelter, in particular at night.
Being homeless doesn't necessarily mean the same thing as living on the streets. Homeless people could be staying in temporary accommodation, for example:
- In a squat
- In an abandoned building
- With friends
- In a boarding-house
- In other assisted accommodation
- In a caravan
They may have found crisis housing or they may move between the houses of friends and relatives.
A homeless person could even be someone who does have a home, but whose home is unsafe, for example where there's the threat of violence. So it can be hard to tell when someone is at risk of becoming homeless or if they have already lost the economic security and the safety of a "home".
Being homeless is not always just about housing. It's also about missing a stable connection to a network of friends, family and the community.
Youth Homelessness in Australia
According to figures collected by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in 2006 there were 20,511 homeless people in Victoria.
Melbourne social scientists Chris Chamberlain, of RMIT University, and David MacKenzie, of Swinburne University, have produced Counting the Homeless (new window), a report based on the census and their own Youth Homelessness in Australia report (new window).
They found that:
- Not all homeless people are older men - about half those fitting the census definition of homelessness were between 12 and 34 (in Australia, approximately 21,000 young people aged 12-18 were homeless on census night 2006)
- Not all homeless people live on the streets - of the total, 45 per cent were staying with friends or relatives, 19 per cent were staying in a supported accommodation service (new window), 20 per cent were staying in boarding houses and 16 per cent were sleeping outside
- Not all young homeless people are male - nationally, 44 per cent of homeless people are female
- Youth homelessness varies a lot between states - for example, Victoria has a rate of 42 homeless people per 10,000 people compared with 248 homeless people per 10,000 people in the Northern Territory
- Youth homelessness is decreasing - the national statistic for homeless young people between 12 and 18 dropped by 20 per cent from 22,000 to just under 18,000 between 2001 and 2006
Other research shows that many young people become homeless because of trouble within their family or their relationship, eviction from housing and domestic violence.
There are many programs run by government and voluntary organisations that aim to tackle homelessness by providing advice, financial support, a place to stay and other assistance.
If you are currently without a place to live, concerned about losing the security of your home, or know someone at risk of homelessness, the following services can help.
Supported Assistance and Accommodation Program (SAAP)
SAAP (new window) is a joint Federal and State Government support program targeting people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness through a range of accommodation and support services.
Their website links to assistance such as referral services, telephone information and crisis accommodation for young people, single adults and families who are currently homeless or at risk. Click on the map of Victoria to locate regional information.
Organisations Providing Emergency Accommodation
The following organisations provide emergency and crisis accommodation for young people:
- The Salvation Army (new window)
- Melbourne City Mission - Stopover Youth Refuge (new window)
- Western Region Accommodation Program (new window)
- St Vincent de Paul Society - Housing and Homeless Services (new window)
- Crisis Help Network Melbourne Homeless Services (new window) - see the section under 'Crisis Accommodation Melbourne and Homeless Accommodation Victoria'
Department of Human Services
The Victorian Government's Department of Human Services provides housing and support for those most in need. Their website provides links to support services and assistance programs for people who are homeless, at risk of homelessness or escaping family violence.
Centrelink Crisis and Special Help
You can find out about the sort of payments available for people who are in severe hardship and who have been forced to leave their home on Centrelink's Crisis and Special Help (new window) pages.
Frontyard Youth Support Services
Frontyard provides integrated youth services to address the physical, social and emotional needs of young people between 12 and 25. Services include:
- Housing support
- Health services
- Education and training
- Family support
All services are free and you can drop in at their offices (19 King Street, Melbourne) without an appointment. Check out the Frontyard website (new window) for more information.
These links provide more information about homelessness issues. For links to organisations that support homeless people, see Where to Find Help, above.
Youth Homelessness Matters
The National Youth Coalition for Housing was formed to address youth homelessness and create housing solutions for young people. They run the annual Youth Homelessness Matters Day and provide both resources for homeless youth and advice about how people can help address youth homelessness.
Counting the Homeless
Report produced for the Australian Bureau of Statistics, based on 2006 Census data.
Youth Homelessness in Australia
Report produced for the Federal Government of Australia, based on 2006 Census data and the National Census of Homeless School Students.
The Big Issue - Homelessness
This iconic publication helps homeless people to earn money and make positive changes in their lives. Its website provides some Facts and figures about homelessness (new window), and also links to support organisations (new window).
Rebecca's Community offers a range of resources, from statistics and reports to personal stories, poems and images by homeless and young people living on the streets.
The Oasis Movie
Documentary about youth homelessness in Sydney. Includes information and statistics about homelessness, such as the Homeless Youth Report, with extensive information from a national inquiry into youth homelessness in Australia.