In a new report released today, Mission Australia says 1 in 6 young people surveyed have experienced homelessness.

Young People’s Experiences of Homelessness report says 15.6% of young people responding to Mission Australia’s Youth Survey 2017 experienced homelessness. This included those living in refuges, transitional accommodation and/or having spent time couch surfing.

Among those who reported couch surfing, these experiences were often not isolated, with only one in five (19.8%) indicating this had happened on just one occasion with 7.0% reporting having stayed away for periods longer than six months.

Importantly, almost one in five of those who had couch surfed (19.5%) reported that they had first done so when they were less than 12 years old.

Mission Australia CEO, James Toomey said: “This is such an important report as it gives us not only an insight into the scale of youth homelessness in Australia but, perhaps most importantly, a better understanding of who these young people are and how they are impacted by homelessness.

“It allows us to understand how their experiences differ from those young people who haven’t experienced homelessness, such as experiencing low self-esteem and happiness, and gives us some clues as to what supports are most needed.

“Ultimately, it should serve as a stark reminder to us all that we must take action. To do nothing risks creating a generation of young people who carry the mental and physical scars of homelessness into their adult lives. We know that too many young people in Australia don’t know where they’re going to sleep from night to night which means it’s much harder to think about what they want to do in the future. Who miss schooling because of having to move from one temporary, inadequate dwelling to another. Who may be experiencing mental illness and living in family conflict situations without any sense of sanctuary and safety. Who are hoping to secure a job, but losing hope about their future as they see the barriers mounting without a sense of control over their own lives.

For many years, the community sector has put forward evidence-based solutions to end youth homelessness, but sadly we see from the recent census that numbers are still growing. This is just not acceptable and we urgently call on all governments to make this a priority.

Mission Australia is participating in Everybody’s Home which calls for a commitment to end homelessness by 2030 and we believe ending youth homelessness is an important part of this goal. We know what works, but it needs funding, leadership, continuous commitment and shared effort which will best be achieved through a national homelessness strategy.

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