Mission Australia’s recent report, Young People’s Experiences of Homelessness, finds one in six young people surveyed have experienced homelessness. This included those living in refuges, transitional accommodation and/or having spent time couch surfing.

Among those who reported couch surfing, these experiences were often not isolated, with only one in five (19.8%) indicating this had happened on just one occasion with 7.0% reporting having stayed away for periods longer than six months.

Importantly, almost one in five of those who had couch surfed (19.5%) reported that they had first done so when they were less than 12 years old.

Mission Australia CEO, James Toomey said: “This is such an important report as it gives us not only an insight into the scale of youth homelessness in Australia but, perhaps most importantly, a better understanding of who these young people are and how they are impacted by homelessness.

“It allows us to understand how their experiences differ from those young people who haven’t experienced homelessness, such as experiencing low self-esteem and happiness, and gives us some clues as to what supports are most needed.

“Ultimately, it should serve as a stark reminder to us all that we must take action. To do nothing risks creating a generation of young people who carry the mental and physical scars of homelessness into their adult lives. We know that too many young people in Australia don’t know where they’re going to sleep from night to night which means it’s much harder to think about what they want to do in the future. Who miss schooling because of having to move from one temporary, inadequate dwelling to another. Who may be experiencing mental illness and living in family conflict situations without any sense of sanctuary and safety. Who are hoping to secure a job, but losing hope about their future as they see the barriers mounting without a sense of control over their own lives.”

“For many years, the community sector has put forward evidence-based solutions to end youth homelessness, but sadly we see from the recent census that numbers are still growing. This is just not acceptable and we urgently call on all governments to make this a priority.”

Among the key policy recommendations, Mission Australia called for an increase to Youth Allowance and Commonwealth Rent Assistant payments to relieve rental stress and prevent homelessness for young people renting independently.

The report notes that, on top of higher rates of unemployment and marginal employment, the low rates of Youth Allowance and Commonwealth Rent Assistance have also exacerbated the rental stress of young people.

(Source: Mission Australia)

Read the report

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