The Facts about homelessness


What is homelessness?

Homelessness includes people who are sleeping rough, as well as people staying in temporary, unstable or sub-standard accommodation.  Many people who are homeless cycle between homelessness and marginal housing.

Homelessness is not just a housing problem - it is impacted upon by some of the following issues:

  • Family breakdown
  • Family conflict
  • Long term unemployment
  • Substance abuse
  • Mental health issues

Facts about homelessness

  • There are an estimated 32,444 young people between 12 to 24 years who are homeless in Australia [1].
  • Family conflict and breakdown is the main cause of youth homelessness in Australia [2].
  • Young people aged between 12 and 18 are the largest group experiencing homelessness [3] and Indigenous Australians are more likely to experience homelessness than other Australians [4]. Young People aged between 12 and 25 years of age are the single largest group assisted by the homelessness service system in Victoria [5].
  • Without successful intervention, at-risk and homeless young people are more likely to transition from youth to adult (chronic) homelessness [6].
  • The Institute of Family Studies estimates that the cost to the community of a person being homeless from mid-adolescence to death is $2 million.

Facts about education

  • Students from lower socio-economic backgrounds are less likely to continue to tertiary education and tend to achieve lower results across all years of education [7].
  • A study conducted by the Business Council of Australia revealed that 21% of young men and 59% of young women who left school in year 9 remained unemployed seven years after leaving school [8].
  • The lifetime net benefit of keeping homeless young people in formal schooling is $474 million [9].
  • Applying strategies to overcome disadvantage while young people are still in school is the most effective form of intervention and is less intensive than trying to address the issue once a young person becomes chronically homeless [10].

Facts about problematic substance use

  • The consumption of alcohol in young people is a major contributing factor in injury, homicide and suicide, three of the leading causes of death for adolescents [11].
  • Polysubstance abuse is common with at-risk young people, particularly in the 12 to 17 age group, with young people using multiple illicit substances as well as consuming alcohol [12].


[1]   Department of Families, Housing, Community Services & Indigenous Affairs, unpublished table from ABS Census 2001 and 2006 data

[2]   Homeless People in SAAP, SAAP National Data Collection annual report 2007-08

[3]   The Road Home: A National Approach to Reducing Homelessness, Commonwealth of Australia 2008

[4]   A hand up not a hand out: Renewing the fight against poverty, Community Affairs Reference Committee, March 2004

[5]   Office of Housing, Department of Human Services, State Government of Victoria
[6]   Homeless Careers: Pathways In and Out of Homelessness, MacKenzie and Chamberlain, May 2003

[7]  The Brotherhood’s Social Barometer – Challenges Facing Australian Youth 2006

[8]   A hand up not a hand out: Renewing the fight against poverty, Community Affairs Reference Committee, March 2004

[9]   Counting the Cost of Homelessness, Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, Research & Policy Bulletin, Issue 24, July 2003

[10] The effectiveness and cost effectiveness of homeless prevention and assistance programs, AHURI, 2006

[11] Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol, National Health and Medical Research Council, 2009

[12] Statistics on drug use in Australia 2006, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2007

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