The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) says 116,000 people were homeless on census night in 2016, a jump of more than 14,000 (14%) since 2011.
In Victoria there are 22,773 homeless people, 46% of whom are women. Over a third of all homeless are aged 19-34. Nearly one in four are over 45.
At the start of Homelessness Week in early August, RMIT University Professor Guy Johnson pointed out some of the biggest myths about homelessness.
People sleeping on the streets are “the visible face of homelessness”, but they are only about 1 in 12 of the homeless population. Most homeless people are “couch surfers”, staying with friends, relatives, or in emergency accommodation.
Professor Johnson says most homeless people, particularly women with children, try hard not to be noticed.
Drug addicts and criminals
About 60% do not have a drug or alcohol problem. Of those that do, most develop it after they become homeless. Homeless people are more likely to be victims of crime than perpetrators of crime.
About one-third of the homeless have serious mental health issues. However, up to half of them developed their mental health problems after they became homeless.
Very few have chosen to live a homeless life. The majority are poor and have experienced a health problem or major financial difficulty. Some cannot stay at home because of violence or abuse, and cannot afford alternative accommodation. About one in three homeless women are fleeing domestic violence.
Giving makes it worse
There is no evidence to support the belief that giving money or food to beggars encourages them to remain homelessness.
Some emergency accommodation is available, but agencies are struggling to meet the demand as homeless numbers continue to grow.
Homelessness Australia (HA) is the national peak body for homelessness in Australia. Since the Federal Government withdrew its funds in 2015, it now provides its services on a voluntary basis, without an office or paid staff.
To learn more about this genuine crisis, visit their website at www.homelessnessaustralia.org.au.