Homelessness problem getting worse

A homeless person outside Melbourne’s St Paul’s Cathedral (Bigstock)

Homelessness in Australia increased by 14 per cent between the 2011 and 2016 censuses, with 116,427 people now thought to have no permanent home. Source: The Guardian.

This means that for every 10,000 Australians, 50 are homeless. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), which released the data yesterday, estimates that more than 43,500 homeless people are under 25.

Migrants were disproportionately affected. While 28.2 per cent of Australians were born overseas, they comprise 46 per cent of the homeless. The elderly too are vulnerable. People aged between 65 and 74 experiencing homelessness increased to 27 people per 10,000 people in 2016, up from 25 per 10,000 people in 2011.

Guy Johnson, a professor of urban housing and homelessness at RMIT University, said rising housing costs combined with a decline in public and community housing were exacerbating homelessness among the chronically disadvantaged.

“In a country as prosperous as Australia, this is a disturbing and worrying trend,” Mr Johnson said.

“Public housing is particularly effective because it’s affordable and has traditionally offered long-term security for precariously housed people.”

The ABS defines someone as homeless if their current living arrangement is in a dwelling that is inadequate, has no tenure, and does not allow control of and access to space for social relations.

Paul Jelfs, the general manager of population and social statistics at the ABS, said people living in “severely” crowded dwellings – defined as requiring four or more extra bedrooms to accommodate the people who usually live there – was the greatest contributor to the national increase in homelessness.

“In 2016, this group accounted for 51,088 people, up from 41,370 in 2011,” he said.

While 2.8 per cent of Australians are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, the latest data shows they comprise 20 per cent of the homeless, although this number is continuing to decline.

John Falzon, the chief executive of St Vincent de Paul National Council, said “charities can only do so much”.

“It is now time for the federal government to show real leadership and make some brave decisions to end homelessness in our rich country,” he said.


Homelessness in Australia up 14% in five years, ABS says (The Guardian)


Homelessness could be ended with political will (St Vincent de Paul Society Australia)

Older women, migrants swell the ranks of Australia's homeless (The Age)

Homelessness growing worse in Australia, census data shows (ABC News)

Australian homelessness up by 13.7 per cent (SBS News)

Ask Izzy website figures show food is the top search for people in need (Herald Sun)

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