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SA’s pandemic youth homelessness spike

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More than one in 20 young people aged between 15 and 19 in South Australia experienced homelessness for the first time during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new survey, with the state’s rate higher than the national average.

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The 2021 youth survey from national Christian charity Mission Australia found a “significant and worrying increase” in the proportion of young people experiencing homelessness for the first time across the country, with 5.6 per cent of respondents in SA falling into the category during the pandemic.

The South Australian rate is 0.8 per cent higher than the national rate of 4.8 per cent.

The national rate has increased from Mission Australia’s 2017 survey, which observed a first-time homelessness rate of 3.9 per cent.

This year’s national survey sample size was 20,207 young people.

Mission Australia state director Mychelle Curran said the report shows “just how harmful the experience of youth homelessness can be for a young person’s wellbeing, their life and their future”.

“Through our Youth Survey 2021, young people who were homeless for the first time during the pandemic said they faced the torment of enormous psychological distress, family conflict, discrimination and a range of other pressures,” she said.

“It’s clear that for young people, homelessness can often be incredibly isolating, destabilising and traumatic. This can have a ripple effect on their lives without access to the right intervention.

“Sadly, for Mission Australia’s practitioners and others who have been working with young people during the pandemic, these findings are not a surprise. Yet we must not accept this as just the way things must be.”

Three in five young people in the survey who experienced homelessness for the first time were women.

The national proportion of people with disability experiencing homeless for the first time rose sharply from 5.5 per cent in 2017 to 13.6 per cent in 2021.

“The need for a comprehensive approach to end youth homelessness in Australia has never been more urgent,” Curran said.

“Early intervention is key and we urge governments and others to take action so young people are adequately supported and help them avoid homelessness, reach their full potential and thrive.”

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