Homelessness happens to different people in different ways, but the stigma of being “homeless” means many homeless people see their situation in other terms:
- A middle-aged woman, divorced and no longer able to maintain mortgage payments on a reduced income, may end up “staying with friends…. just for now”:
- In escaping an unsafe home, a young person will “couch surf”, going from one house to another, too young to share a lease.
- A single man may be “just passing through” while camping in a bush reserve or National Park.
- A single mother may be “sleeping in the van”, with her children, “in between rentals” that have become too expensive.
Australia-wide statistically only 7% of homeless people “sleep rough”*, which means the homelessness we see is only the tip of the iceberg and the vast majority goes unseen. National research suggests that 30% of Australians are just six paydays away from homelessness**.
People can become homeless when their income drops and they can no longer afford housing, because they lose their job, separate from their partner or become ill or injured.
People can be homelessness after leaving out of home care (young people), hospital or prison.
Mental health is both a cause and consequence of homelessness.
Young people and children make up nearly half (44%) of all people who seek help from homelessness services**. Of these, 50% go on to experience later episodes of homelessness, indicating that Family Violence propels a significant proportion of children and young people on that path for a long time.
Some of these causes could be addressed by changes in policy and resourcing, but as a community we should be more understanding and sympathetic to the broad range of homeless people.
*Australian Bureau of Statistics Census, 2016
** Mission Australia, 2017
***WESTIR, 2020: Redesigning the System to Reduce Youth Homelessness.