The good news first
The number of homeless young people aged 12 to 18 decreased from 26,060 in census week 2001 to 21,940 in 2006. The number of homeless young people was down in all states and territories except Western Australia where there was an increase from 3,508 to 4,280. Overall, the rate of homelessness across the country decreased from 14 cases per 1,000 of the youth population to 11 cases per 1,000.
Number of homeless youth and rate per 1,000 in 2001 and 2006
However there is still a long way to go...
Despite our nation experiencing its highest level of economic prosperity since the 1970s and the lowest unemployment for several decades youth homelessness in Australia has more than doubled since the landmark Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Inquiry headed by Brian Burdekin in 1989.
In 2007 the National Youth Commission Inquiry into Youth Homelessness conducted a second independent community inquiry funded by the Caledonia Foundation. The NYC report, titled Australia's homeless youth called for the Australian Human Rights Commission to conduct an inquiry into the number of young people leaving state care who become homeless. The report also included specific recommendations on health, mental health and alcohol and other drugs.
Some of the findings from the report
- On any given night in Australia, 100,000 Australians are homeless. More than one third are teenagers (aged 12-18) and young adults (aged 18-25) – that's at least 36,000 homeless young people.
- The Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP) is Australia's primary response to homelessness. But every night, one in two young people who seek a bed from SAAP is turned away because services are full. Currently SAAP services are so inadequate that only 14 per cent of all homeless people have access to a bed on any given night.
As a nation we have failed to use our prosperity to invest adequately in services to reduce youth homelessness.
We urgently need to invest in families and young Australians, and work together to build a community where homelessness becomes a thing of the past, by:
- preventing youth homelessness
- intervening early
- supporting young people in need
- stopping those assisted from falling back into homelessness
Finding my place
The Salvation Army formulated a comprehensive response to the National Youth Commission Inquiry into Youth Homelessness. The report entitled Finding my place details 74 recommendations on how to address youth homelessness in Australia
The Oasis Movie
Alongside the NYC Inquiry, a major feature documentary, The Oasis, was made by the documentary production company Shark Island Productions. Homeless young people from one of our homeless youth centres in Sydney participated in the film for over two years, courageously sharing their life experiences.