Youth Homelessness

Imagine finding yourself homeless and then feeling as though you have no one to turn to.  Many young Australian’s find themselves in this exact situation with 46% of homeless Australian’s being under the age of 24 and 10% under the age of 12 years old.  In NSW alone there was over 13,000 homeless youths under the age of 24 in 2006.

There are many reasons young Australian’s become homeless.  Some people believe this is because they “run away”.  However many academic studies show that children and youths often become homeless due to no fault of their own.  Rosenthal, Mallett and Myers state in their 2008 public health journal article;

“Family conflict is the most commonly cited reason and abuse by family members - sexual, physical or emotional - is also frequently cited.”

It is also important to note here that 27% of NSW children aged under 18 years were ‘known to Community Services in 2009, which has increased from 19% in 2005.

This enormous issue facing young people and the community is growing and it is all of our responsibility to do something about it. Sydney City Rotaract believes it is important to empower young people and invest in the future of this country.

 Case Study:

Terry was a 23-year-old Australian born female. Terry predominantly lived with her mother until the age of 16 years; however, her mother made her go to live with her father on weekends after their divorce when Terry was 6 years old. Terry reported a long history of sexual abuse by her father that began when she was five and continued to the age of 14. When Terry was 14, her mother kicked her out of home and she had her first episode of homelessness. Terry reported that her mother asked her to leave because she considered that she was of no use around the home. Terry reported running away for short periods of time to her older brother’s house before 14 because of the experiences of sexual abuse when she was forced to stay with her father on the weekends.

Despite Terry’s long history of sexual abuse by her father, she did not meet criteria for any psychological disorder at the time she became homeless. Having been asked to leave home at 14, Terry lived with a variety of relatives and moved into a refuge. At 16 years, Terry was assaulted again by her father, and subsequently developed a major depressive episode and attempted suicide. At 19, Terry remained homeless and was raped. She developed PTSD as a result and met criteria for alcohol abuse and dependence. Although her drug and alcohol problems remitted, she continued to meet criteria for PTSD and major depressive disorder and had a further attempt at suicide.

(Martijn & Sharpe, 2006)

Bearsley-Smith, Bond, Littlefield, Thomas (2008) The psychosocial profile of adolescent risk of homelessness, Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry, 17, 226–234

Bruecknera, Greenb, Saggersc (2010) The Trappings of Home Young Homeless People's Transitions Towards Independent Living, Housing Studies, 26 (1), 1–16

Australian Bureau of Statistics (2003) Hidden homelessness in Australia, Australian Census Analytic Program: Counting the Homeless, 2001

Commonwealth of Australia (2008) The Road Home A National Approach to Reducing Homelessness

Martijn & Sharpe (2006) Pathways to youth homelessness, Social Science & Medicine 62 (1–12)

Rosenthal, Mallett, Myers (2006) Why do homeless young people leave home, AUSTRALIAN AND NEW ZEALAND JOURNAL OF PUBLIC HEALTH, 30 (3).

Y Foundations (2006) Youth Homelessness in NSW

Zhou (2010) Estimate of NSW children involved in the child welfare system, Department of Human Services NSW, Community Services