When people think about others who are homeless in Australia, the images that come to mind aren’t always accurate.

Here are seven common myths and misconceptions surrounding homelessness in Australia, and the truths behind them.

Myth 1 Our homeless community is made up of middle-aged men.

People of all ages and backgrounds — including women, children, families, young people and older people — can become homeless.

Almost a quarter (24%) of people who are homeless in Australia are aged between 12-24 years. This includes approximately 19,400 children under 14, who don't have a safe place to call home.1

Six out of ten people seeking support from homelessness services are women.2

Myth 2 Homeless people sleep on the street.

Contrary to common perception, only 7% of people who are homeless are sleeping rough in improvised dwellings such as sleeping in parks, bus shelters, abandoned buildings or shop doorways.3

Majority of people are hidden from view; ‘couch surfing’, moving between shelters, living in overcrowded dwellings or sleeping in cars.

Myth 3 Being homeless is a choice.

Domestic violence is one of the main reasons people seek help from a homeless service. Every week, women across Australia, often with children, escape abusive partners with nowhere to go and no other option.4

Other social, economic and health-related factors; shortage of affordable housing, financial problems, relationship issues, unemployment or illness can also push people out of their homes.

Myth 4 Homeless people just need to get a job.

The high cost of rental housing, particularly for low income earners, forces many families and individuals out of their homes with no place else to live.

People living with a physical or mental health issues may face additional barriers to finding suitable and affordable accommodation.

Myth 5 Homelessness is simply about physical housing and 'rooflessness'.

Living independently requires more than just having a roof over your head. Mission Australia provides individuals with the support and life skills to find a safe home, maintain a tenancy and thrive in the community.

Services that support people to address mental health issues, reengage with education, employment or training, overcome alcohol or drug dependencies, and more, are crucial for people to achieve lasting change.

Myth 6 Homelessness will never happen to me.

Homelessness can be triggered by a range of factors and circumstances that are outside of our control. Factors such as sudden job loss, injury and illness can lead to homelessness and can happen to anyone.

Myth 7 We will never solve homelessness.

Social and economic factors contribute to the problem of homelessness in Australia. However, Mission Australia's work is making a big difference. In 2020, through our 69 homelessness and housing services, we supported 17,368 people to get back on their feet and move towards rebuilding an independent life for themselves.5

Only together can we break the cycle of homelessness in Australia. 

Every Australian should have a safe home

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Know someone affected by domestic and family violence?

If you are experiencing abuse or violence it is not your fault. There are support services that can help you. If your life is in danger, call 000. For 24/7 domestic violence counselling call the National Sexual Assault, Family & Domestic Violence Counselling Line on 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732).

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Source:

1Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2020). Australia's children. Accessible at: www.aihw.gov.au/reports/children-youth/australias-children

2Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2020). Specialist Homelessness Services annual report 2018–19. Accessible at: www.aihw.gov.au/reports/homelessness-services/specialist-homelessness-services-annual-report 

3ABS (2018) Census of Population and Housing: Estimating homelessness, 2016

4Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2019). Specialist Homelessness Services annual report 2018–19. Accessible at: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/homelessness-services/shs-annual-report-18-19

5Mission Australia, (2020) 2020 Annual Report, accessible at: https://www.missionaustralia.com.au/publications/annual-reports/annual-report-2020

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Purpose - 'Inspired by Jesus Christ, Mission Australia exists to meet human need and to spread the knowledge of the love of God'