A new report and the first national study of its kind, The Cost of Youth Homelessness in Australia, has revealed the extreme difficulties faced by homeless young people.
Conducted to better understand the experience, impact and support needs of homeless youth, Swinburne University of Technology, in partnership with University of Western Australia, Charles Sturt University, Salvation Army, Mission Australia and Anglicare NSW South and West, and ACT, led this landmark research project.
Swinburne’s Dr Monica Thielking, one of the lead authors on the study, said that the concerning findings were the relationship between family conflict, out-of home care and sleeping rough prior to turning 18, and homelessness later in life.
“What we found was that over half of young people under the age of 25 receiving support from homeless services had slept rough at least once prior to turning 18.
“Additionally, the study found that 63% of homeless youth surveyed had been placed in some form of out of home care by the time they had turned 18.”
Dr Paul Flatau, from the University of Western Australia Centre for Social Impact (UWA CSI), also a lead author in the study, said that many homeless young people struggled with mental health conditions, with 53% of homeless youth reporting they had been diagnosed with at least one mental health condition in their lifetime.
“There was also a strong link between early experiences of family violence and homelessness later in life, with 39% of homeless youth reporting that that police had come to their house because of violence between parents on one or more occasions,” reported Dr Flatau.
Dr Bruce Redman from The Salvation Army said that the report confirmed what their services had been experiencing recently.
“As the largest provider of homelessness services across the country, the Salvation Army is seeing a concerning increase in the number of youth accessing our 40 homelessness services and support networks spread across Australia.”
Anglicare NSW South and West and ACT CEO Jeremy Halcrow said that more needed to be done to stop the cycle of homelessness and poverty in the younger generation.
“Young people require support and boundaries to help develop their own living skills. Anglicare runs a range of programs that aim to give young people the skills needed to break the cycle.
“When we were interviewing the homeless youth for this study, many reported a lack of confidence to maintain and secure jobs, and deal with the psychological impact of homelessness.”
Mission Australia CEO Catherine Yeomans called for changes to be made to address the issue of youth homelessness.
“This report tells us that we need to invest in early intervention and prevention measures in areas such as domestic violence, mental health and out-of-home care. This will help prevent young people from becoming homeless in the first place.”
Close to 400 young Australians participated in this study and were tracked over three consecutive years to obtain these findings.
This is the first report in a series of findings, with the next release, reporting on the economic costs of youth homelessness, due in late 2015.
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