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Youth homelessness: Be in the know

18 April 2018 Wesley Mission news

Did you know that 28,000 Australians aged 12-25 are experiencing homelessness each night?

Young people are hugely over-represented in the homeless population, but as they tend to be hidden from the public eye their prevalence can go unnoticed—Youth Homelessness Matters Day is trying to change this. Falling on April 18 this year, this national campaign aims to raise awareness about youth homelessness and inspire people to take action.

What are the realities of homelessness for young people?
A common misconception is that young people who find themselves homeless wanted to fly the nest in search of greater independence and freedom. This couldn’t be further from the truth; 70% leave home as a last resort to escape domestic violence, child abuse and family breakdown.

While there is no universal experience, couch surfing is the most common entry into homelessness for young people, be that staying with friends, relatives or in other households. This may seem like a safe option, but there is often no private space or security guaranteed with this type of accommodation, which everyone should be entitled to.

Couch surfing often begins as a temporary solution, but this way of living can become quickly entrenched as people settle into homelessness subcultures and networks. Young people who experience long-term homelessness are less likely to stay engaged with education, potentially limiting their job and rental prospects. This unstable lifestyle means they’re also at higher risk of experiencing depression, poor nutrition, substance abuse and mental health problems.

What barriers do young people face in coming out of homelessness?
Entering the cycle of homelessness at a young age makes it harder to break the pattern, so finding the right support is more critical than ever. Although 42% of Australia’s homeless population is under 25, young people often aren’t aware of the support services available to them until they have already left home.

In addition to the fact that youth homeless residences are often fully occupied, young people are less equipped for independent living in terms of skills and finances. Finding stable housing is far harder with a lack of or low income and no savings or pension to fall back on.

What can you do?
Bear in mind that with the high rate of youth homelessness you might know someone affected by it, so stay tuned to those close to you and if you do feel that someone needs support, don’t be afraid to reach out to them.

Homelessness needs to be seen as an experience not an identity. Raising awareness is the first step to bringing about change, so please spread the word and keep the conversation going in your network.

Wesley Mission believes that everyone deserves the right to a bright future, and offers a range of housing and support services for young people experiencing homelessness. You can donate to the cause here—any contribution is much appreciated.