We have a duty to ensure all young people have adequate accommodation and support. A range of pressures in the ACT means that young people are too often pushed into homelessness. On top of the usual pressures we all face as adolescence, a range of structural and systemic issues such as family break-down, housing instability and rental market discrimination push young people into homelessness. When adequately supported we can alleviate some of that pressure, allowing young people to reconnect with their families or transition to independent living.
Between the ages of 12 – 25 is an integral part of development in which we actively build our social and emotional skills. We begin to explore the world around us and have new experiences that shape the people we want to become. This provides an opportunity for us to ensure young people have a supportive and nurturing environment so that they can have a positive impact on our community, which continues into their adulthood.
It is estimated that 42,000 young people are homeless in Australia each year. Many of the accommodation options and strategies employed by homeless young people do not fit the limited conception of the ‘literally homeless’ young people living on the streets. The majority of homeless young people live in conditions that are often overlooked as they are hidden from the general population. The marginally housed, or those people in inadequate, unsafe and insecure accommodation are less visible, often in overcrowded, temporary residence or couch surfing. People in marginalised or precarious accommodation do not always seek assistance from organisations.
If a young person is homeless in the ACT they are highly vulnerable and at risk of harm. By working with the young person, gaining a deeped understanding of homelessness and working with services we are able to achieve positive outcomes.
Sometimes young people don’t want to or can’t stay where they are living. It is important for workers to explore why this may be the case and work with young people and their families/support people to identify possible solutions. Where possible, workers should support young people to remain in their current accommodation, and access homelessness accommodation services as a last option. Below are some prompting questions that can help you to explore the issues and alternatives with young people.
Sometimes young people cannot sustain their current accommodation and it might be necessary for them to access the following accommodation or accommodation support services.
Family relationship breakdown, conflict or violence is considered to be the primary contributing factor to homelessness for young people.(8–11)
Trauma is a risk factor for homelessness, including physical and sexual abuse. Trauma occurring during childhood is significantly associated with homelessness.(5, 8, 10)
Substance use, both by the young person and by their parents, is strongly linked with homelessness.(8)
Socioeconomic disadvantage can play a role in homelessness, as there is a shortage of affordable housing in Australia.(10)
Seeking independence is important to young people and their families, and it can play a role in homelessness.(9)
Young people want to individuate from their family, but they may lack the finance, skills or support to live independently and therefore place themselves at a heightened risk of homelessness.
Mental health issues are strongly linked to homelessness.(8, 10) Johnson and Chamberlain (2011) found that for young people with mental illness, homelessness is closely linked to their family’s inability to manage obstacles around the mental illness. Similarly, limited social networks have been associated with contributing to homelessness in people with mental
Some population groups are overrepresented among young people experiencing homelessness, including: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, LGBTIQ+, culturally and linguistically diverse young people, young people who are in out-of-home care for a period of time, or those exiting youth detention.(3, 5)
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