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Sobering SA youth homelessness figures expected to worsen

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One in six South Australian young people have experienced homelessnesss, according to a Mission Australia report – with the situation expected to worsen due to the pandemic’s economic impact.

 

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Released today, the Staying Home: A Youth Survey Report on Young People’s Experience of Homelessness surveyed 25,126 Australians aged between 15 and 19 years old from March to mid-August last year, with 22,673 responding to questions relating to homelessness.

Mission defined homelessness as “those who live in improvised dwellings, support accommodation, staying temporarily with other households (and) boarding housing”.

While the definition did not include those living in overcrowding, the organisation said it did recognise this as a form of homelessness.

The survey found that one in six of 3242 SA respondents had experienced homelessness with or without their families throughout their lives, with almost one in eight spending time couch surfing.

Mission South Australia director Mychelle Curran told InDaily she expected the figures to worsen when the 2020 results were released next year in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We certainly have seen an increase in young people seeking support from our youth homelessness services and also accessing relief over the COVID period,” Curran said.

“There’s a high proportion of young people who were unemployed to start with but there are a high proportion of young people who are working in a casualised workforce – and they have been really hard hit.

“I think what we will actually see is some of the impacts of JobKeeper and JobSeeker, the levels of those payment have increased during the pandemic … but we would expect to see a greater impact as those payments reduce.”

In March, the Federal Government announced it would temporarily double the JobSeeker and Youth Allowance payments for six months, as part of an economic stimulus, in an effort to soften the financial blow being felt across the country.

The Treasurer has since announced from September the Government described coronavirus supplement would be halved but continue until December 31.

However, welfare groups have called on the Federal Government to permanently increase low-income payments or risk a deepening recession and rocketing unemployment rate.

Curran said as well as increasing social security payments, a national strategy was needed to end homelessness, including 500,000 new social and affordable homes across Australia by 2030 and integrated youth services.

“For every person who receives a social housing dwelling there’s another person who comes onto the waiting list. Every state or territory is continuing to grow or not reduce,” Curran said.

“Young people in particular, because their incomes are so low, generally have much greater difficulty in accessing affordable or social housing.

“Often landlords aren’t willing for young people to take on leases, they’d much rather they go with tenants who they think will be much more stable.”

The 2020 Anglicare Rental Affordability snapshot, released in April, found only 3.5 per cent of private rentals in South Australia were affordable for those on income support.

Jaimi King was among those who had been priced out of the rental market as a teen and forced into homelessness.

King told InDaily she first experienced homelessness after her family lost their residence while she was in high school.

She said for the past four years she had moved between uncertain public and private accommodation – often not knowing where she would sleep from night to night and continuously facing the prospect of sleeping on the street.

“At one point, I was living with my partner … I was there for about a year, maybe a year and a half, and it got really bad,” King.

“Me and my partner were better when we weren’t together as much. There was just too much tension. And his mum didn’t want to deal with it anymore and she couldn’t afford it.

“I had to move out that day … and I had nowhere else to go. I went to one of my friends and stayed there for two days but her dad works remotely and he doesn’t like people staying there when he’s home.”

She said through connecting with advocacy services she was able to enrol in TAFE courses, get a job and land private accommodation.

“It took quite a few months after being homeless for me to get my own income,” King said.

“It’s hard to get a job when you don’t have a history but I kept applying … and just never heard back.

“Lots of people look at homelessness as though you’ve done something to cause it – and that’s not the case at all.

“It comes out of nowhere and you don’t know what to do with it and it would be so much more helpful if there were more services to help.”

In a statement, SA Human Services Minister Michelle Lensink said the State Government’s $550 million housing and homelessness strategy aimed to help get more South Australians into homeownership, prevent people falling into homelessness and provide public housing.

She said more than 20,000 affordable housing outcomes would be delivered in the next decade, including “1000 new affordable homes by 2025 for low- and moderate-income South Australians”.

“COVID-19 highlights more than ever we need to ensure the system is working well, so that more South Australians can get long-term, safe and stable accommodation – and keep it,” Lensink said.

Federal Housing Minister Michael Sukkar said that while social housing was a state responsibility, the Morrison Government was making “significant, ongoing investments into social housing”.

“In just two years, the Morrison Government’s National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation has issued nearly $1.2 billion in bonds … which has supported the delivery of more than 1700 new and 5400 existing homes built and maintained by community housing providers,” he said.

“Every year the Federal Government provides more than $6 billion in Commonwealth Rent Assistance and support to the states and territories to deliver social housing through the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement.

“These are significant, ongoing investments that we hope will be matched by state and territory governments, and not used as an opportunity to reduce their own investment in social and affordable housing which has unfortunately occurred in the past.”

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