There is more homelessness than is reported. Youth homelessness is on the increase. It’s complex in terms of the spectrum of issues; complex life circumstance dynamics that led to homelessness, including family violence and/or neglect of the needs of children, various socioeconomic disadvantage, the accumulation of conflict and isolation with the culminating anxiety perpetuating trauma. There is a firmament of uncertainties and they can become overwhelming with the crash into homelessness.
There are 300,000 homeless Australians, not nearly 120,000 as the Australian Bureau of Statistics reports. There are more than 180,000 families on the public housing waiting lists. There are more than 20,000 street present homeless, not the nearly 10,000 officially estimated.
The real story is there are a half million Australians living on the brink or in proximity to homelessness, touting of future Australian landscapes that catastrophically presently remain among Australia’s least discussed issues.
There are families on the streets or living out of cars; hundreds of families across the nation street present. During the last few weeks alongside my colleagues we’ve been assisting sixteen homeless families who are street present.
One homeless mother of four children reached out to me a few weeks ago. Her 14 -year-old daughter had attempted suicide, had been sexually abused by a predator known to the family. They had been in the toxic mix of domestic violence, had fallen behind in rent, were evicted from the public housing rental, had lived last year out of the family vehicle; mum with her two-year-old, eight-year-old, twelve and fourteen-year olds.
Life was painstakingly difficult, but the children attended school. Life is lonely, but mum keeps the family together. The suicide attempt was devastating, remains scary and what’s ahead remains harrowingly unknown.
The 14-year-old was fighting for life in hospital after her suicide attempt but at the rudimentary level has physically recovered and was discharged – back to mum, car, homelessness. We can argue forever for more hospital beds but hundreds more beds here and there can’t fix hospitals – there’s a hundred thousand more hospital beds needed across the nation if we insist on going down that line alone.
We’ve put this family up, paid for nearly three weeks accommodation at a lodge so that the mother has a best shot at trauma recovery for her 14-year-old. We’re supporting the family as best can and we’re hoping to secure a public housing rental for them.
But for the majority of the 15 other homeless families we’re supporting at this time, ranging from families of two children to seven children living on the streets, it won’t be anytime soon that a home is secured. Street life is one of deprivations, ignominies, a loss of faith in society, facing grim realities such as the risk to various violence and sexual predation. Sadly, babies are born onto the streets, people die on the streets, while our governments carry on as if homelessness is a fact that will always be with us but nations such as Finland which has pretty much put to an end street present homelessness by housing them proves kindly otherwise.
Silence is a violence that repugnantly betrays and leaves behind the most vulnerable. We should tremble for the future unborn, of whom more than ever before will live homeless and the majority less supported than today.
Of today’s officially recorded 117,000 homeless Australians, 20,000 are aged 12 years and less. The 180,000 families on Australian public housing waiting lists total more than 700,000 Australians, of whom 500,000 are children.
– The 16 homeless families are being supported by myself and colleagues from the National Indigenous Critical Response Service, the National Migrant Youth Support Service, the National Child Sexual Abuse Trauma Recovery Project and the First Nations Homelessness Project and from goodwill outside the formality of these projects… April 30 to May 2, there shall be a better than usual, a much more profound conference – The National Houseless and Homelessness Forum