Report Paints Depressing Picture of Homelessness’ Impact
29 March 2012 at 8:35 am
A new report which compares the lives of 1.1 million Australians who have experienced homelessness with the general population paints a stark and depressing picture, according to leading homeless organisation Mission Australia.
The report – the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Australian Social Trends (March Quarter 2012) – makes comparisons between the two groups across a range of indicators including: health, employment, lifestyle and financial situation.
The report found:
· 18-34 year olds made up 55% of Australians who’d been homeless in the past 10 years.
· One-third of adults who had been homeless had not gone beyond Year 10 education. Having been homeless also meant a lower likelihood of completing tertiary education.
· Adults who had been homeless were more likely to report having a disability or long-term health condition (64%) compared with those who had never been homeless (37%).
· Adults who had been homeless in the last 10 years were more likely to report being unemployed (9%) than those who had never been homeless (3%).
· Adults who had been homeless were twice as likely to report that their main source of personal income was a government pension or allowance compared with those who had never been homeless (48% compared with 24%).
· Three in five people who had been homeless were in the bottom 40% of the household income distribution compared with 36% of those who had never been homeless.
· Adults who had been homeless were more than twice as likely to be in a one parent family (17% compared with 8%).
· In the 12 months prior to being surveyed, almost one quarter (23%) of people who had experienced homelessness lived in households which reported having three or more different types of cash flow problems (compared with 5% of people who had never been homeless).
· People who had been homeless were more likely to be living in more disadvantaged areas and were almost three times as likely to report being a victim of physical or threatened violence in the 12 months prior to the survey (25% compared with 9%).
Mission Australia’s spokesperson Eleri Morgan-Thomas, said the report was sad confirmation of what homeless organisations already knew about the impact of homelessness on people’s lives.
“Homelessness isn’t just about ‘not having a roof over your head’. Homelessness destroys your health, keeps you out of a job and cuts you off from your family and loved ones,” Morgan-Thomas said.
“We see this among the people we help every single day. Today’s report is further confirmation of the devastating impact homelessness has on people’s lives.
“More than that, it’s an impact that can stay with you for years. Even if your episode of homelessness was 10 years ago it can still resonate in terms of poor health, living and employment outcomes for the rest of your life.
“We can do two things to reduce these factors in the years ahead. Firstly, we have to ‘turn the tap off’ and stop people becoming homeless in the first place. Now, obviously, a large part of that is about providing more affordable and social housing opportunities.
“Secondly, we need to make sure that people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness have access to the services that can support them through many of the issues that contribute to their situation, such as mental illness and family breakdown.
“Getting out of homelessness – and staying out – is about more than just finding accommodation. It’s also about being able to participate in your community, having the capacity to find and keep a job, to be engaged in either education or training, to cook and clean for yourself and to look after your health.
“Homeless people therefore need help, not just with housing, but also with dental and psychological health, personal hygiene, literacy and numeracy, self-esteem and fitness.
“But unfortunately, in the current system, where these sorts of supports exist they are usually fragmented, uncoordinated, and have long waiting lists.
“We need more of these supports – what we call ‘wrap around’ services – for homeless people. Services that are complementary to accommodation, accessible and responsive to their needs.
“Both federal and state/territory governments have made a significant investment in tackling homelessness over the past few years – measures that are aimed not only at addressing accommodation capacity but also cutting the flow of people into homelessness.
“But it’s clear from the constant demand we’re experiencing in our services that we still have a long way to go. The picture captured in today’s report is just further confirmation that we can’t afford to drag our feet,” Morgan-Thomas said .
The Council to Homeless Persons (CHP) CEO Jenny Smith said "The longer people are exposed to the hazardous impacts of homelessness, the harder it is to exit and the more costly homelessness becomes.
"This report reinforces the need to expand affordable housing options and support people back into safe and secure housing, with connections to supports and employment opportunities, as quickly as possible.
"Ending homelessness and addressing disadvantage requires more homes that are affordable for those on the lowest incomes," Smith said.
More information for the ABS March edition can be found at Australian Social Trends (cat. no. 4102.0)