Homelessness in Australia: Statistics, Causes and Challenges
Updated: Nov 4, 2018
Image credit: SLR Jester
One of the first images people associate with poverty is homelessness. While an aspect of Goal 1: No Poverty, the question of homelessness actually lies in Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities. In fact, Target 11.1 mandates that we, by 2030, ensure access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services and upgrade slums.
In order to achieve this target, we first need to define what homelessness means.
"When a person does not have suitable accommodation alternatives, they are considered homeless if their current living arrangement:
is in a dwelling that is inadequate; or
has no tenure, or if their initial tenure is short and not extendable; or
does not allow them to have control of, and access to space for social relations."
The United Nations distinguishes between two types of homelessness. Primary homelessness is known as rooflessness in which a person lives without a roof over their head (on the street). Secondary homelessness includes other forms of homelessness including couch-surfing, living in shelters, etc..
There are currently over 100,000 people in Australia who are experiencing homelessness, approximately 0.5% of the population. On any given night, 1 in 200 Australians are living without a place to call home. To put this in perspective, the average Facebook user has 338 friends. This means you may know someone who has been or is currently experiencing homelessness.
A quarter of these people are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Australians, a phenomenal display of inequality given they only make up 3% of the population. A further 30% of the people experiencing homelessness in Australia are born overseas.
17% of the homeless population in Australia are children under 12. In total, youth make up nearly half of the homeless population.
The Northern Territory is our country’s red zone with over 7% of the population identifying as currently experiencing homelessness. Comparatively, the second most affected place in Australia is the ACT with a mere 0.5% of the population identifying as currently experiencing homelessness. (It is important to note that this number has increased by over 70% since 2006.) This huge discrepancy between the Northern Territory and the ACT demonstrates how severe the challenge of homelessness is in our country’s north. The area with the lowest rates of homelessness is Tasmania with only 0.32% of the population identifying as currently experiencing homelessness.
There are a range of factors which lead to homelessness including a loss or lack of income, a lack of affordable housing and accommodation, mental and physical illness, drugs and alcohol and domestic and family violence.
The causes of homelessness are incredibly important for us to focus our attention. While it is vital that we provide shelters and places for people to seek refuge, we must look at the underlying causes of homelessness, including those mentioned above, in order to prevent people from ever having to experience homelessness.
The key to sustainability is ensuring that we are addressing the root cause of all the problems we are facing, not just finding solutions to the effects of them. It is important that we provide adequate support for people battling mental and / or physical illnesses. It is important that we positively influence behaviour of Australians to ensure domestic and family violence is eliminated by 2030.
The achievement of Target 11.1 will ensure that we are able to achieve many of the other goals such as Goal 2: Zero Hunger by ensuring people have a place to safely store fresh food, Goal 3: Good Health and Well-Being by ensuring people are able to achieve adequate amounts of sleep; Goal 4: Quality Education by ensuring children are able to study without the pressures of homelessness; Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation by ensuring everyone has access to clean, fresh drinking water and a place to shower each day. These are just a few examples; however, due to the interconnectedness of each of the goals, there are so many ways in which this one target affects each of the others.
If you have noticed any outstanding work towards addressing homelessness in your community, contact us to let us know!