Family violence is a significant reason for young people sleeping rough, and the incidence of such violence is ‘significantly higher’ than previously thought, according to charities working with homeless people.
(Young people sleeping rough in Melbourne’s CBD. Photo: Jiali Fan)
‘Young people fear for their own safety which necessitates them leaving their homes for safer accommodation,’ said Ian Gough, Manager of Consumer Programs for the Council to Homeless Persons (CHP) which is a peak body representing people working to stop homelessness.
‘At least 80 per cent of the young people who come to CHP were homeless because of family violence,” Mr Gough added.
He said that young people sleeping rough were not homeless in the ‘roofless’ sense because most had housing, but that housing has gradually or immediately become unsafe for them.
The state government is currently spending $55 million of taxpayer funds on more than 100 specialist homelessness services for young people through to June 2020, Mr Gough said.
Jess Lake is a 21-year-old girl who has experienced more than three years of homelessness in Swanston St, because of family violence similar to that described by Mr Gough.
‘I was being bullied by my mom and I left, I couldn’t endure it anymore,’ Ms Lake said.
‘I want to try to move back home now but I’ve got black listed by my mom and even my son passed way as I don’t have stable accommodation ’ she added.
The Victorian Government has committed $152 million for crisis accommodation in this year’s budget, acting on the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Family Violence.
But this action is unlikely to immediately stop the increasing amount of homeless youth.
‘I’d contact the service system but they just let me wait,’ Ms Lake said.
Mr Gough said it’s hard to deliver ‘early intervention’ because many victims don’t ask for help until they’re forced to leave.
Despite this, he said, CHP’s mission is to end homelessness in Victoria through preventing violence using long-term strategies like changing attitudes through education.