Streets Safer Than Living at Home - Wesley Report
30 April 2013 at 12:03 pm
Living on the streets can leave children and young people with lifelong mental and physical scars but for a growing number it is a far safer option than staying at home, according to a new Wesley Mission study.
The Not for Profit says its report called Homelessness and the next generation clearly shows that many homeless people do not believe their homes are safe and that the experience of homelessness can leave an enduring negative impact on their lives.
“What is disturbing but not surprising is that home is often considered less safe than the alternatives – even sleeping rough,” the CEO of Wesley Mission the Rev Dr Keith Garner said.
“While the causes of homelessness are often related to domestic and family violence, eviction, financial stress and loss of employment it is other factors including crime, substance abuse, domestic violence and mental illness that play their part.
“It is a sad fact that nationally, almost one third of homeless people who receive support are homeless families – and that number is expected to grow in the coming years.”
“More than 17% of Australia’s homeless are now under the age of 12, 27% are under the age of 18, and another 15% are aged 19 to 24 years. Families are the most likely group to be turned away from homeless services while two out of every three children who accompany a sole parent are turned away each day.”
Almost all of the 22 participants in the Wesley Mission study felt that experiencing homelessness at a young age had a considerable impact on their life as an adult and any subsequent episodes of homelessness.
“Many participants in the study felt that exposure to the stress of homelessness as a child had resulted in difficulty forming meaningful relationships as an adult. Many spoke about a sense of deep distrust of others and their inability to interact socially,” Dr Garner said.
“Several participants spoke of losing their innocence as a result of experiencing homelessness as children. Many had witnessed violence, illegal drug taking and crime – things they should never had seen as children.
“Many homeless people felt their early exposure to homelessness and the resulting cycle of homelessness had meant significant mental and physical problems. Some medicated with drugs and alcohol to block out the pain. It also affected their attitude to education and their ability to hold a job.
“Some participants said their experience of homelessness as a child had resulted in negative learned behaviour with an increased likelihood of regressing to homelessness as an adult.
“Wesley Mission staff have seen a seismic shift in the face of homelessness – from an experience largely defined by single, older men to one where women, families and children are pronounced.
“If we are to adequately address the major issues, it is the experiences and concerns of families and children that need to inform service delivery and policy reform,” Dr Garner said.
“It is important that both government and non-government hear the voice of the marginalised.”
The Wesley Report recommends that both government and non-government provide more family focused, integrated and flexible services that address the unique strengths and vulnerabilities of families.