Services failing homeless children and young people

Sad young person in tunnel. | Newsreel
Homeless youth are not receiving the support they need even when they ask. | iStock

A coalition of more than 80 community-minded organisations has called on the Federal Government to develop a national pool of dedicated housing for the thousands of homeless unaccompanied children and young people.

Analysis of the most recent Specialist Homelessness Services data revealed 37,872 children and young people approached homelessness services for assistance in 2022/23, including 9232 children aged 15-17.

This prompted the coalition made up of peak bodies, homelessness services, housing providers, unions and others to write to Federal Minister for Housing and Homelessness Minister Julie Collins seeking urgent action.

The data revealed the highest numbers of youth seeking help were in New South Wales (12,854), Victoria (11,026), Queensland (5654), South Australia (3082) and Western Australia (2514), with more than 30% First Nations children and young people.

The analysis revealed that even after accessing assistance from homelessness services, 44 per cent of children and young people 15-24 were still homeless.

Homelessness Australia CEO Kate Colvin said the fact 44 per cent of children and young people using homelessness services were still homeless after getting help was a stark reflection of the lack of housing options for this group.

“These young people are at a crossroads in their lives. If they get the housing and support they need, we know they can thrive. Without it, we are pushing young people down a path full of risks and lost opportunities,” she said

“This Budget, we urgently need the Government to invest in youth tenancies linked to support.”

Members of the coalition, which have signed up the Home Time campaign noted that children who lost their homes before the age of 18 often experienced violence and/or abuse in their family home and frequently had been through state/territory child protection systems before becoming homeless.

The organisations supporting Home Time have called on the Federal Government to:

  • Develop and maintain a national pool of 15,000 dedicated youth tenancies for 16-24-year-olds.
  • Provide linked support services to enable young people to pursue their goals and transition to independence.
  • Address the rental gap to ensure viability for housing providers and landlords offering tenancies to young people who have been homeless.

It says the Federal Government has not yet committed to making unaccompanied children and young people a focus for policy and investment in the next National Housing and Homelessness Plan, which is currently being developed.