World Homeless Day 2022 – Some words from our CEO

Today is World Homeless Day. With homelessness being so damaging and costly it’s important to highlight where attention is needed to prevent and end homelessness.

Rough sleeping is the tip of the homelessness iceberg and I think most Australians would be horrified to learn that on any night 44,000 children and young people were without a safe place to call home.

Fortunately, there are effective evidence-based ways of identifying and ending the homelessness of even those most entrenched and vulnerable rough sleepers, such as Housing First (provide direct access to permanent housing rather than make people ‘graduate’ through various inadequate parts of the homeless system) and Supportive Housing (the co-ordinated provision of housing and the support needed to sustain it). 

But while this great work is happening, we need far greater attention upstream to prevent people becoming homeless in the first place and for intervening early for those at risk of homelessness. 

Sadly, thousands of young people are flowing into homelessness and on a trajectory to loss of potential, physical and psychological harm, and becoming entrenched in the homelessness, mental health and justice systems.

The structural factors contributing to youth homelessness include lack of affordable housing, poverty/inadequate income support and discrimination in accessing housing. The systemic factors which create homelessness are where young people leave government residential care settings (such as Out of Home Care, health, mental health or juvenile justice) without a home available for them to move into. 

Some young people are also highly vulnerable and at high risk of homelessness. However, these risks can be mitigated by rapidly meeting their physical, emotional, material, interpersonal, social and educational needs. 

An effective Youth Homelessness Strategy is urgently needed. It can and must take into account these different factors. Otherwise, thousands of Victorian young people will continue to overwhelm crisis services and become entrenched in homelessness and associated high-cost systems.

In the meantime, fortunately, the Victorian Government has committed $5.3b to new social housing, so it should be easy to allocate at least $500m now to get started on some desperately needed youth housing projects.

Stephen Nash – CEO, Kids Under Cover