Growing up in a safe and nurturing home is imperative for our development, but many children and young people in Australia don't have access to a healthy home environment. Young people are not exempt from homelessness in Australia and their experience living without a home can create negative impacts well into adulthood.

When we asked 22,673 young people aged 15 to 19 years about their experience of homelessness, the responses revealed that many faced stress, mental health concerns and challenging barriers in their adult lives. Here are three insights from our report, Staying home: A Youth Survey report on young people’s experience of homelessness.

1. 1 in 6 young people in Australia have been homeless

Did you know one in six (17%) of young people who responded to Mission Australia’s Youth Survey 2019, have experienced homelessness?

3 things you didnt know about youth homelessness infographic

This included those who had experienced homelessness with or without their families, and had experienced time without a fixed address, lived in a refuge or transitional accommodation and/or had spent time couch surfing.

Homelessness involves more than ‘rooflessness’ or sleeping rough on the street. The experience of homelessness in Australia is largely unseen, with many people relying on temporary forms of accommodation and shelter.

Of the survey respondents, 13% said they had experienced couch surfing, a form of homelessness. Almost one in five (18%) said that they had first couch surfed when they were under the age of 12. Many had couch surfed more than once, with a small but important minority staying away for longer than six months, putting them on the path to longer term homelessness.

2. Homelessness has negative impacts on young people’s wellbeing and mental health

Experiencing homelessness as a young person creates significant differences among peers who haven’t.

Survey respondents who have experienced homelessness were more than twice as likely to have been bullied in the past year compared to those who haven’t been homeless (40%% compared to 17%) and were also twice as likely to report psychological distress (52% compared to 21%).

Most alarmingly, respondents who had been homeless were almost four times more likely to feel very sad/ sad with life when compared to their peers who had never been homeless (27% compared to 7%).

The impacts of homelessness are multi-faceted and young people who had experienced homelessness were also more likely to express personal concerns about family conflict, mental health, financial security, suicide and coping with stress, than those who haven’t been homeless. 

3. Young people who had been homeless were less optimistic about their future

Without the safety and security of a home, young people who had been homeless reported feeling negative/ very negative about the future.

According to survey respondents, the experience of homelessness is also interrelated with additional challenges. Young people who had been homeless were more likely to perceive barriers to the achievement of their study/work goals 68% compared to 45%).

Some of these barriers included financial difficulty, family responsibilities and lack of family support.

Download your copy of Mission Australia’s Staying home: A Youth Survey report on young people’s experience of homelessness for more information on youth homelessness in Australia.   

Read the report

Staying home: A Youth Survey report on young people’s experience of homelessness

Staying home: A Youth Survey report on young people’s experience of homelessness Infographic

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