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Why are people homeless?

Homelessness can be caused by a number of factors including:

  • poverty
  • unemployment
  • lack of affordable housing
  • poor physical or mental health
  • drug and alcohol abuse
  • gambling
  • family and relationship breakdown
  • domestic violence
  • physical and/or sexual abuse.

All these factors can cause a person to become homeless. They can also be one of the reasons why a person remains homeless. For example, drug and alcohol abuse can be both a cause and a result of:

  • domestic violence
  • mental illness or addictions
  • family instability

For young people, the spiral into homelessness is caused by many factors, including:

  • conflict or breakdown in family life
  • sexual, physical and emotional abuse in the home
  • lack of access to employment opportunities 
  • insufficient income to pay rent and living costs
  • rising housing costs and the inaffordability of the rental market
  • difficulties in accessing income support payments
  • an absence of support when in, or moving from, State Care
  • drug and alcohol issues
  • mental health issues
  • overcrowded living conditions
  • death of a parent.

Stability: the key for homeless families

A dwelling is not the only need that many homeless families have. The Salvation Army believes that apart from the obvious needs such as employment, counselling and material aid, many families have a desperate need for stability.

Wherever possible it is important to help homeless families and individuals find social and support networks within the local community, which encourages them to put down roots.

The Salvation Army does not just deal with homelessness. What we are actually targeting is ending transience for some of these families. When you find some kids have had to change school up to seven or eight times in one year, that has to be addressed as a matter of urgency.

To fully address the issue of homelessness -- and to help create long-term stability -- The Salvation Army has developed a continuum of care that ranges from early intervention, crisis accommodation, medium term care, and a range of counselling and rehabilitation services. All these services work together to return people into secure, long-term accommodation as part of a local community.

Kids who are moved from different environments all the time are incredibly at risk in terms of safety, security and stability. We do everything we can to keep children in the same school environment because its constant; it's the one thing that's not changing in their lives.

Because we are a crisis service, we do not always see the end result. But sometimes we see families settled which is wonderful. We had a girl with her children who had left a domestic violence situation. She was on Methadone and had other addictions. We were able to organize care for her children while she went into The Bridge Program for drug rehabilitation and counselling. We also linked her into a playgroup run at the local Corps (Church). She is now living independently, accessing the church on Sunday, and the kids are at playgroup and Sunday school. So far, they are doing well.

The good thing is that she and the kids have experienced stability and she now has a support network around her.