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Child and youth homelessness in Australia

Australia has a child homelessness crisis, with recent statistics showing that more than 22% of Specialist Homelessness Service clients are young people under the age of 15. In total nearly 13,000 Australian children aged 10 to 17 sought help from specialist homeless services last year, and these children were alone. 

Children who experience homelessness are particularly vulnerable and are at an increased risk of being homeless as adolescents and adults. They are more likely to experience mental health, emotional, and behavioural challenges than housed children. Children facing homelessness are also more likely to report food insecurity and to go hungry, negatively impacting developmental and health outcomes.

Poverty is a key driver of homelessness for children and their families, driven by a chronic lack of affordable housing. Right now, 761,000 children under 15 years are living in poverty – that’s 1 in 6 kids. Children living in poverty have fewer resources to buy food, uniforms, and school supplies, negatively affecting their engagement with education and learning. Often these vulnerabilities have long lasting impacts, with research showing that disadvantaged children are 2-3 years behind in reading and maths by the time they are 15.  Children are increasingly facing homelessness as parents struggle to provide the basics of shelter, enough food and access to education for their children, after losing a tenancy and having to re-enter the rental market. 

Disrupted education is a concerning and common experience for children experiencing homelessness. Imagine trying to keep on top of homework while living with your parents in the car, or having to start over at several new schools as you couch surf with your mum. Research shows that when there is continuity in schooling and education, this can provide a stability that helps to protect wellbeing later in life for children in homelessness. 

Many Children  face homelessness due to family violence and conflict, exacerbated by the chronic lack of affordable, safe housing. These children will have been exposed to, experienced or witnessed violence as well as being uprooted from home, friends, and school. Stories like these from families and children living in tents in Bendigo are not uncommon, and highlight the reality that many face in the current market. 

What we used to see before was mainly single people, but the trend that is emerging is that we’re seeing families setting up tents in the bush because there is simply nowhere left for them to go.

Deborah Di NataleChief Executive, Council to Homeless Persons

Two ways that we (and you) can help 

At StreetSmart we collaborate to respond to the emerging needs of people facing homelessness, but we also work to create long lasting change through awareness raising, education, and advocacy. We recognise the importance of both distributing funds to create responsive grassroots change as well as helping people connect with homelessness by learning the facts and stories that help reduce stigma and myths. Both help to bring about change for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

Throughout January and February we are rallying our supporters to not only take immediate action by donating, but also by helping empower more young people to learn about homelessness and be equipped changemakers within and for their community. Donate if you can to help children in homelessness get the support they need, and share our program School for Change with a teacher, student, parent, or school that you know.

Donate to provide care and support to children in homelessness

Fundraising through January and February will help bring about change for children facing homelessness. We focus on supporting smaller, grassroots community organisations and help them to respond to the needs of their community. Donations will help provide education support, safe accommodation, and trauma-informed wellbeing support.

Encourage a school, teacher, or student to get involved in 2024

We know the power of education in creating long term social change –  that’s where our Schools for Change resources and activities came from! The program gives educators (free!) ready-to-use resources to incorporate homelessness into the classroom with curiosity and empathy. Schools for Change helps to empower young people through education and advocacy to be local leaders of change both within and for their community. 

Responding to the needs of children in homelessness will take a whole of community response, and we are grateful for the continued support of our generous monthly donors as well as once-off donors who collectively help us take action. Click the button below to help make a difference for children facing homelessness by donating what you can. You can also share more about our education and advocacy program to help build community awareness about homelessness in Australia.