Everyone deserves safe, secure and affordable housing; but for many Australians, this isn’t the reality.
Marked globally on October 10th, World Homeless Day provides an opportunity to raise awareness of the experience of homelessness, with a particular focus on bringing light to the issues happening on a local scale.
The day was conceptualised in 2010 after online discussions emerged between aid workers all over the globe, who were helping to respond to homelessness in their own communities.
PUBLIC PERCEPTIONS OF HOMELESSNESS
Despite the common perception of homelessness as a ‘rough sleeper’—a person sleeping in a park or street—there is no ‘typical’ experience of homelessness. In fact, rough sleeping only makes up around 7% of homeless people. 'Hidden homelessness' makes up the majority—whether it's people sleeping in cars, couch surfing, moving between family members or staying in temporary types of accommodation.
There is a large spectrum of causes that contribute to homelessness in Australia, from financial hardship to social disadvantage, mental health, or alcohol and substance use. Census data highlights that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, children and older women are considered to be more vulnerable in comparison to other groups.
For instance, despite making up only 3.3% of the population, 20% of people experiencing homelessness identify as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander. Further, in 2018-2019, 40% of people in search of accommodation at specialist homelessness services experienced domestic and family violence. As a means to escape for their safety, many women and their children are forced to leave their homes, often with nowhere to go.
ABS Homelessness statistics via ABC
WHAT DOES HOMELESSNESS LOOK LIKE IN AUSTRALIA?
Census data from 2016 shows that 116,000 Australians were classified as homeless, a 14 per cent increase in the number of homeless people since 2011.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, a person will experience homelessness when there is a lack of suitable accommodation alternatives and their current living arrangements is either in a dwelling that is inadequate; has no tenure (or is otherwise short and not able to be extended); or does not allow them to have control of space for social relations.
Offering a sliver of hope, while general data shows that homelessness is on the rise in Australia, an extensive report by the ABC shows that the number of homeless people in the Northern Territory, Western Australia and the ACT has fallen. Homelessness among Indigenous people has also continued to decline. And compared to 2016 data, the number of homeless children (under 18 years old) is also decreasing.
HOW TO OBSERVE THE DAY
There are plenty of ways to observe WHD beyond education, whether through highlighting local issues within the media, inviting guest speakers, or donating to local service providers.
Plus, there are a number of support services locally that are always looking for volunteers to provide practical help. Services like The Salvation Army, Mission Australia Housing, Housing All Australians and Unison provide a range of support for people who are at risk, finding long-term and affordable housing.
To find out more about homelessness support services in Melbourne, click here.