With just six per cent of the 105,000 homeless people in Australia sleeping rough, the majority are classified as the hidden homeless.
This week, Homeless Person’s Week, national peak body Homelessness Australia is campaigning for the hidden homeless and the need to strengthen strategies aimed at halving homelessness by 2020.
“Hidden homelessness is harder to count,” Homelessness Australia Chairperson, Narelle Clay AM, said. “Young people staying temporarily with friends or friends’ families, or women and children bunking down with relatives, don’t always identify themselves as homeless – and neither may their hosts.
“Although this kind of hospitality is increasingly common, it can place real strain on everyone involved,” Ms Clay said. “Even more severe is the pressure on Aboriginal people in remote areas, or new migrants in western Sydney, where you find 10 or 11 people squashing into accommodation designed for a single family.”
Homelessness Australia is increasingly concerned about the number of older people, particularly women, at risk of homelessness due to the housing crisis. “A life crisis – loss of a job, a partner, or a long-term tenancy – can precipitate someone who has enjoyed secure housing all her life, and who is not accustomed to asking for help, into homelessness,” Homelessness Australia’s Acting CEO Lynne Evans said. “Our members, who provide many services besides accommodation – shopping vouchers and phone cards, bathroom and laundry facilities and counselling to name just a few – assist more and more people who are just one pay packet or welfare payment away from homelessness.”
Homeless Persons’ Week sees cities and towns across Australia hosting events to raise awareness about homelessness. “Homeless Persons’ Week is a great opportunity for people in the community to learn more about homelessness, its causes and solutions. “People can do this by going to our website for information on events countrywide, to read or download fact sheets on homelessness, or by joining Homelessness Australia. “The week also provides an opportunity for homelessness service providers to showcase the fantastic work that they do,” Ms Evans said.
“With 2013 being a federal election year, Homeless Persons’ Week provides an opportunity for the major political parties to consider ways in which they might keep the objective of ending homelessness on the national agenda,” Ms Evans added.