Counting the ‘Hidden’ Homeless
8 August 2013 at 10:51 am
Homeless Persons’ Week 2013 is shining the spotlight on the ‘hidden homeless’, and on the need to strengthen strategies towards halving homelessness by 2020, according to Homelessness Australia, the national peak body representing homelessness services.
More than 105,000 people in Australia experience homelessness on any given night, and just six per cent of them are sleeping rough. Others are in specialist homelessness services, boarding houses, hotels or motels, or sleeping on the floor or the couch at someone else’s place.
“Overcrowding in the largest form of homelessness in Australia but also the most hidden. A person in an overcrowded dwelling has a roof over their head and are usually with family so may not even consider themselves homeless,” Homelessness Australia said.
This is especially true for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders because of their concept of family and kin.It is common for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families to live together in the same house.
More than 20% of people supported by specialist homelessness services over the course of 2011-12 identified as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander including more than 1 in 4 children aged 0-10.
One in 15 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians will access a specialist homelessness service each year.
“Hidden homelessness is harder to count,” Homelessness Australia Chairperson, Narelle Clay said.
“Young people staying temporarily with friends or friends’ families, or women and children bunking down with relatives, don’t always identify themselves as homeless – and neither may their hosts."
“Although this kind of hospitality is increasingly common, it can place real strain on everyone involved,” Clay said. “Even more severe is the pressure on Aboriginal people in remote areas, or new migrants in western Sydney, where you find 10 or 11 people squashing into accommodation designed for a single family.”
Homelessness Australia says it is increasingly concerned about the number of older people, particularly women, at risk of homelessness due to the housing crisis.
“A life crisis – loss of a job, a partner, or a long-term tenancy – can precipitate someone who has enjoyed secure housing all her life, and who is not accustomed to asking for help, into homelessness,” Homelessness Australia’s Acting CEO Lynne Evans said.
“Our members, who provide many services besides accommodation – shopping vouchers and phone cards, bathroom and laundry facilities and counselling to name just a few – assist more and more people who are just one pay packet or welfare payment away from homelessness.”
"With 2013 being a Federal Election year, Homeless Persons’ Week provides an opportunity for the major political parties to consider ways in which they might keep the objective of ending homelessness on the national agenda,” Evans added.