Darla Bardine | National Network for Youth | April 11, 2010
The alarming number of homeless young people is jeopardising Australia’s future. According to a Federal Government report, nearly 63,000 homeless Australians, or 60% of all homeless, are under 35 years old. It may surprise people that the biggest homeless age group in Australia is 12 to 18 years – the teenage group that is usually expected to be under the care and support of families.
The general public has neglected the seriousness of youth homelessness because these young people do not fit into the homeless stereotype – unkempt male adults, drunks, drug addicts and the mentally-ills – who are sleeping rough.
However, the same report showed signs of optimism – the number of homeless youth came down by almost 21% during the recorded five-year period. Given there was no significant change in unemployment, the government attributed the decline to the success of early intervention services. Caretaker’s Cottage is one of these organisations that provide youth emergency accommodation in the eastern suburbs.
“Most kids come to us as the result of some disaster within their family,” Laurie Matthews, the executive officer of Caretaker’s Cottage said. “Here, we aim at bringing them home through family reconciliation.” When asked about the Caretaker’s Cottage’s residents, Mr. Matthews said it consisted of young people from different cultures, social backgrounds and of both genders. “Youth homelessness is a phenomena that can affect every suburb and social group.”
“The number one reason these kids leave their homes is the divorce of their parents – they no longer know where they belong,” he said. Given the high rate of divorce in Australia and about half of it involving children, he was worried about the effects on future generations. He also warned that parents and the community need to act on the issue quickly.
April 14th is Youth Homelessness Matters Day. Caretaker’s Cottage will set up an information counter in Bondi Junction Mall to raise awareness about the issue.
© National Network for Youth 2010