When we think of the island country of Australia, our minds are filled with images of gorgeous sunsets on some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Australia is famous for its untamed forests and exotic wildlife. The “Land Down Under” is a popular travel destination for millions of visitors every year. It is rich with culture and history, and filled with friendly locals.
While the positive images of Australia make it seem like a utopia, the country still has its share of social problems. Why is homelessness an issue in Australia? Financial issues can be as much of a problem in developed countries as in poorer ones. The Australian government reports a disturbing percentage of their homeless population. What makes the problem worse is that the majority of these are children and teenagers.
Facts about homelessness in Australia
The Australian government strives to keep statistics on homelessness in their country; however, many experts believe that the numbers are greater than what can be counted. According to Homelessness Australia, the number of homeless people from 12-24 is at least 26,238. The organization states that the greatest percentage of homeless people are children between 12 and 18. Some of these are with parents, while others are on the streets alone.
Out of the different ethnic groups represented in the homeless statistics, the ones who are most likely to be homeless are the Indigenous Australians. In the Victoria area, social service organizations report that children are the largest population of homeless people whom they serve. Without the proper help, these children and teens often grow up to be chronically homeless adults, say the reports. It costs the community approximately $2 million to support each homeless person from youth to death.
Main causes of homelessness
Most of the children who are homeless are with their families. Often, it is a single mother on the streets with her children. Reports from social service organizations that specialize in homelessness say that a majority of mothers and children leave because of domestic violence.
In addition to violence in the family, other causes of homelessness are poverty, financial hardships, the cost of housing, mental illness, and substance abuse. There are some children who are raised in a home where no one works. If a financial crisis hits the family, they have no emergency resources.
It is more difficult for families who are privately renting their home rather than living in government housing. As the prices of private rentals go up, families have to spend most of their earnings for housing. A job loss could mean no rent money and a quick eviction. The family ends up on the street. Those who live in government housing are less likely to be homeless, because their rent is based on their income. The housing crisis in Australia has been a major contributor to homelessness.
Another cause of homelessness is intergenerational poverty. According to reports, a majority of homeless people say that their parents had also experienced homelessness at one time. Australian families are also facing changes in parenting payment eligibility. It is putting more single parents and their children at risk for homelessness, say the reports.
Programs that help the homeless
There are many programs available to assist in the homeless problem. Not only is it a government effort, but private companies that help the homeless often donate a lot of money and resources. Here are some of the top Australian programs to help the homeless:
- The International Red Cross: The Red Cross has been a major support to needy people around the world. In Australia, they offer counseling for young people and families in crisis. They operate homeless shelters, free clinics, and food pantries all over the country.
- St. John’s Youth Services: St. John’s is a youth organization that reaches out to young people with housing and educational needs. They have various programs for continuing education, young parents, and rental assistance.
- Fishers of Men: This is a religious organization who recruits volunteers to run their programs for the homeless. They organize fund drives that pay for the shelters and other resources they offer.
There are over 30 different organizations that work with local and national social services to help young people who are hungry and living without a home in Australia.
How can youth homelessness be reduced?
- Counseling and education: No one should have to live in an abusive situation. Unfortunately, there are people who feel trapped in an intergenerational tradition of violence and abuse. Proper guidance can help battered women and their children get out of these dangerous situations without ending up on the streets.
- More affordable housing: When people rent from private landlords, they have to pay the usual market rate for private rent. Since many people have to live from pay check to pay check, a financial crisis could affect their rent payment. They can easily lose their home. Government grants are making it easier for people to live in nice homes that they can afford. The rent is usually based on the tenant’s income. There are also programs that can pay a portion of private rental fees to qualified individuals.
- Better education and job training: Teens who finish school are more likely to get a job than those who do not. Social service programs help young people get their diplomas and offer training for potential jobs. It is easier to have a home with a steady income.
Homeless youth is a sad situation in Australia. Local and federal government agencies in the country are trying to find more ways to help these kids get off the streets. Homeless young people are often hungry, abused, and exploited. With more funds, education, and global help, Australia tries to reach as many homeless youths as they can. These young people are the country’s future.