Why are so many Australian children homeless?
In Australia, on any given night, there are 44,000 children and young people without a place they can call home. Sadly, this includes almost 18,000 boys and girls under the age of 12**. Young children who are without a stable place to play, learn, grow and sleep.
These children have not become homeless by choice. They are homeless with their families. Sometimes with their mum, dad and family pet, or more often than not, with their single mother who has fled an abusive partner. Many are kids just like Lily* (9), Aiden* (7) and Emma* (3) who lived with their mum, Amy*, in a cramped car for months, when they had no place else to go.
Picture life for these vulnerable young kids. Constantly moving from place to place, with no permanent home from one night to the next. 'Couch surfing' with distant relatives or friends in cramped conditions, staying in crisis accommodation, shelters or cheap motels. Or worst of all, sleeping in a car with no toilet, no place to wash and no place to cook.
There's also the emotional strain children suffer when their lives are disrupted so dramatically. Many of these kids are forced to move away from their school and must say goodbye to friends, much-loved pets and their favourite local activities. They see the desperation their parents are going through trying to find somewhere to call home.
These disruptions have a lasting impact on children. Tragically, research shows that children experiencing homelessness have poorer physical and mental health and lower educational outcomes than their peers. They also suffer more developmental delays, behavioural stress and lower self-esteem, causing them to fall behind in their learning.
For Lily, Aiden and Emma, being homeless was upsetting and disruptive. It was heart-breaking for their mum, Amy.
When they first fled the children's abusive father, Amy moved the family to a cheap rental property, full of hope of a fresh new start. But when the property was sold and she could no longer afford the rent, the family was evicted. With nowhere else to go, Amy and the children were forced to live in their car. They used the local park toilets to wash, and ate dinner in the back of the car.
The three children became anxious and depressed with no room to play or sleep properly. They had frequent colds, and Lily and Aiden regularly missed school. It was upsetting not to be able to see their friends and they fell behind in their class work.
Thankfully, Amy was put in contact with Mission Australia and we found a home for her and her children. We also linked Amy to studies that would later help her find a job, and settled the children into a new school. With our support, Amy is now on the path to independence and Lily, Aiden and Emma have a stable and secure home life.
1.9 million Australian children like Lily, Aiden and Emma are affected by family violence in their early to middle years. Mission Australia works with families like Amy's to help them avoid homelessness and regain control of their lives.
Independence is precious. When a child's life is disrupted by no fault of their own, a little extra support can ensure they have a brighter future. You can help children experiencing homelessness by making a donation today.
*Names changed to protect the people we help.
** ABS Census of Housing and Population, 2011
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