Your home may not be tidy, maybe there is some unwashed laundry and dishes, piles of half-finished things, but on a rainy night you can snuggle into a duvet or blanket, safe and dry.
The howling of the wind outside paired with the pitter patter of the June rain creates an eerie but cosy atmosphere. You bunker down in the safety and comfort of your own bed, hiding under the unique-smelling duvet you have yet to wash.
Tonight, roughly 116,000 Australians will be bracing the howling and pitter patter without a roof over their head, let alone a unique-smelling duvet.
Out of the 116,000 Australians, a third of them will be under the age of 24.
According to the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, from 2011 to 2020, nearly 1.3 million people required assistance from specialist homelessness services. From 2018 to 2019, a daily average of 253 requests that were received, asking for accommodation, were not met. This was nearly 92,300 accommodation requests that were not answered.
According to the latest report on homelessness by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, in 2016, young people ranging from 15 to 24 years of age made up 21 per cent of the homeless population.
24,200 young people.
58 per cent of homeless youth lived in severely crowded dwellings.
17 per cent were living in supported accommodation.
11 per cent were couch surfing.
Three per cent were ‘sleeping rough’.
With the increase in youth homelessness over the years, organisations like the Youth Affairs Council of Western Australia are concerned about the number of young adults without a home.
YACWA is the peak non-government youth organisation in Western Australia that operates to address the exclusion of young people in Australia. The organisation advocates for the youth community’s needs at a local, state, and federal government level to enhance positive attitudes towards young people. It represents youth service providers that aim to better the lives of young people, such as Anglicare and the Perth Inner City Youth Service.
After working closely with these youth services and hearing from them, YACWA senior policy and advocacy officer Stefaan Bruce-Truglio is disheartened by the increase in homeless youth.
“What they’ve told us and what we’ve heard from working with a lot of youth homelessness services is that COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the youth community. Their ability to maintain a stable life with the rising cost of living, inflation and rent has put further financial stress on many young people,” he says.
Bruce-Truglio believes, however, with added support from the government, the issue of youth homelessness can be combatted.
“I think the number one thing that the federal government needs to do, which is a key issue that has been on display in the election, is housing. There has been a significant gap in the federal government providing enough social housing and public housing for the last three decades,” Bruce-Truglio says.
The lack of governmental assistance for the homeless population in Australia is alarming, but, organisations like Launch Housing are doing their part to combat homelessness one step at a time.
Launch Housing is one of Victoria’s largest community organisations that delivers homelessness services and housing support to disadvantaged Australians, specifically in Victoria. With over 400 staff members working across 14 locations in Melbourne, they are committed to providing a range of solutions to end homelessness, including the Roughin’ It Challenge.
For its second year running, the Roughin’ It Challenge is Launch Housing’s fundraiser that invited Australians across the country to participate in to open their eyes to the seriousness of homelessness and show their support for this vulnerable group.
From May 28- 29, participants were encouraged to ‘rough it’ out for 24 or 48 hours by living with no bed, one bag and $10 a day to purchase food and essentials. Launch Housing chief executive Bevan Warner says he is confident the organisation can minimise homelessness with community support and national action.
“The Roughin’ It Challenge provides the opportunity for Australians to raise awareness and show solidarity with those in our community who are without a safe place to call home,” he says.
“Let’s use this platform as an opportunity to ignite conversations around the kitchen table, at barbecues and in workplaces about how we can make Melbourne, and Australia as a whole, more liveable and affordable for everyone.”
This year 364 people registered to take part in the challenge, and $50,803 was raised to help end homelessness. Many like Brooke Blurton are proud to be supporting a good cause.
Proud Noongar-Yamatji woman, youth worker, mental health advocate and reality TV star Brooke Blurton was this year’s Roughin’ It Challenge ambassador and is passionate about building more empathy and compassion for people who are vulnerable in the Australian community.
Blurton has had her own experiences of sleeping rough, and she lost her sister Kyandra in August last year. Kyandra passed away while she was living rough on the streets of Perth. Blurton has decided to pay tribute to her late sister and show her solidarity with those who are still in need.
“Homelessness is a human rights issue. It’s something we need to talk about and act on. I feel if people aren’t affected by it, it’s not spoken about, though it disproportionately affects our children and young people,” she says.
“Behind the alarming homelessness statistics are real people facing real hardship. The Roughin’ It Challenge allows people to experience a small part of what it is like to be without a home.
In Western Australia, homelessness services are doing their best to support the vulnerable group, they say more support is needed from the government and the wider community.
In the last few months, with the rise of cost of living, several services have called upon the public to donate as much as they can to keep outreach services running. The Perth Homeless Support Group had sent out a message on their public Facebook page asking for donations and for people to contribute to their service.
“Those who attend our outreach services know how important our service is, not a lot of people understand the cost that goes into running it, especially with costs of insurances, running vehicles, rent and utilities, they all add up,” says the PHSG.
Bruce-Truglio believes the state government has contributed a lot under the WA homelessness strategy, but there is a lack of support for services to help the larger demographic, homeless youth.
“There needs to be a stronger approach for young people. If we intervene at an early stage we can break the cycle of homelessness,” he says.
“An example of breaking this cycle would be providing young people with housing and support immediately, to get them off the streets and into education and training to find a job, which creates a pathway to stable and independent living.”
According to another finding from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, one in 104 West Australians received homelessness assistance in 2018 and 2019 through housing.
That was pre-pandemic.
Homelessness is wicked problem to solve. Despite hard work by many volunteers and professionals there always people whose lives get so tangled that they lose the basic security of a roof over their heads.
Whether it be at a local or national level, the lack of housing and an increase in cost of living has driven many individuals out of a home. Initiatives like The Roughin’ It challenge have raised awareness about the pressing issue at hand and posed the question: Can we as a culture take care of the people who, for a range of reasons, find themselves outside and unable to find shelter from the pitter patter?