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Costs of Youth Homelessness Revealed - Report

17 February 2015 at 3:46 pm
Xavier Smerdon
New research from Swinburne University reveals the extreme difficulties faced by homeless young people in Australia, with 63 per cent having been in kinship, residential or foster care and more than half being diagnosed with a mental illness.

Xavier Smerdon | 17 February 2015 at 3:46 pm


Costs of Youth Homelessness Revealed - Report
17 February 2015 at 3:46 pm

New research from Swinburne University reveals the extreme difficulties faced by homeless young people in Australia, with 63 per cent having been in kinship, residential or foster care and more than half being diagnosed with a mental illness.

The report, The Costs of Youth Homelessness in Australia (CYHA) is described as the first national Australian longitudinal study investigating the economic, personal and social costs of youth homelessness over time across a broad range of locations.

The researchers said the landmark project was conducted to better understand the experience, impact and support needs of homeless youth.

Swinburne University of Technology led the project, in partnership with University of Western Australia, Charles Sturt University, Salvation Army, Mission Australia and Anglicare NSW South and West, and ACT.

Swinburne’s Dr Monica Thielking, one of the lead authors on the study, said that the concerning findings were the relationship between family conflict, out-of home care and sleeping rough prior to turning 18, and homelessness later in life.

“What we found was that over half of young people under the age of 25 receiving support from homeless services had slept rough at least once prior to turning 18,” Dr Thielking said.

“Additionally, the study found that 63 per cent of homeless youth surveyed had been placed in some form of out of home care by the time they had turned 18.”

Dr Paul Flatau, from the University of Western Australia Centre for Social Impact (UWA CSI), also a lead author in the study, said that many homeless young people struggled with mental health conditions, with 53 per cent of homeless youth reporting they had been diagnosed with at least one mental health condition in their lifetime.

“There was also a strong link between early experiences of family violence and homelessness later in life, with 39 per cent of homeless youth reporting that that police had come to their house because of violence between parents on one or more occasions,” Dr Flatau said.

Dr Bruce Redman from The Salvation Army said that the report confirmed what their services had been experiencing recently.

“As the largest provider of homelessness services across the country, the Salvation Army is seeing a concerning increase in the number of youth accessing our 40 homelessness services and support networks spread across Australia,” Dr Redman said.

Anglicare NSW South and West and ACT CEO, Jeremy Halcrow, said that more needed to be done to stop the cycle of homelessness and poverty in the younger generation.

“Young people require support and boundaries to help develop their own living skills. Anglicare runs a range of programs that aim to give young people the skills needed to break the cycle,” Halcrow said.

“When we were interviewing the homeless youth for this study, many reported a lack of confidence to maintain and secure jobs, and deal with the psychological impact of homelessness.”

Mission Australia CEO Catherine Yeomans called for changes to be made to address the issue of youth homelessness.

“This report tells us that we need to invest in early intervention and prevention measures in areas such as domestic violence, mental health and out-of-home care. This will help prevent young people from becoming homeless in the first place,” Yeomans said.

Close to 400 young Australians participated in this study and were tracked over three consecutive years to obtain these findings.

“It is estimated that approximately 44,000 Australians under the age of 25 are homeless, but the actual number is likely to be higher. Homeless young people comprise some 42 per cent of the Australian homeless population,” the report said.

Participants have been tracked by researchers over a three year period to see what kind of issues young homeless people face; changes in their circumstances, health and quality of life; how many used services, the types of services they accessed and whether or not they transitioned from homelessness to permanent accommodation.

The Council to Homeless Persons (CHP) said the research is further proof that Governments need to improve safety nets for young people leaving care, and the Not for Profit has proposed a ‘Leaving Care Housing Guarantee’ in their 2015-16 Victorian Pre-Budget Submission.

“If we’re serious about  preventing homelessness, then  providing guaranteed housing and support for young people exiting state care is one of the most efficient and sure-fire ways to turn off the homelessness tap,” CHP’s Acting CEO, Sarah Toohey said.

“The Council to Homeless Persons Leaving Care Housing fund would provide $4,160 per year for each young person leaving care to subsidise rent, or pay for bond and other housing costs.”

Under the proposal, each young person leaving care would also have a support worker to help navigate their move to independence.

“Although this may sound like a lot of money, research has shown that the lifetime costs of homelessness can be over $700,000 and into the millions when due to the added burden on emergency services, the justice system and mental health services,” Toohey said.

“Investment in this vulnerable group of people now could save taxpayers tens of millions of dollars in the long-run.”

Download the Report HERE

Xavier Smerdon  |  Journalist  |  @XavierSmerdon

Xavier Smerdon is a journalist specialising in the Not for Profit sector. He writes breaking and investigative news articles.

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