Youth homelessness is unseen

We often hear the reference to ‘street kids’ but in fact most young people experiencing homelessness are invisible to us. This generally means they are temporarily staying with friends, relatives, family and sometimes with complete strangers. These young people will often be sleeping on couches or on the floors of these people’s houses until they outstay their welcome and move on to the next place – hence the term 'couch surfing'.

Young people experiencing homelessness do not need rough sleeping initiatives alone. To prevent homelessness they need effective access to accommodation, family reconciliation services, community support and education programs.

Around 28,200 children and young people aged 12–24 years were experiencing homelessness on Census night 2021 across Australia, making up almost a quarter of the total homeless population that night. This comprises 11,302 children and young people aged 12–18 years; and 16,902 young adults aged 19–24 years.

In the 2021 Census, children and young people (12–24 years) made up 30% of total homeless persons living in ‘severely’ crowded dwellings, 27% of persons in supported accommodation for the homeless, and 16% of persons staying temporarily in other households. However, Census estimates may under-represent the extent of youth homelessness, as some young couch surfers may report their usual address as the household in which they are staying on Census night (ABS 2023).

Nationally, in 2022–23 over 38,300 15–24 year olds presented alone to specialist homelessness services. The main reasons why these young people needed help was due to:

19% – Housing crisis 
15% – Domestic and family violence
12% – Relationship and/or family breakdown.

Around half (48%) had a current mental health issue.

Specific strategies to address child and youth homelessness are critical to the overall reduction of homelessness in Australia.

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