Youth homelessness is widely acknowledged as an area of concern and it has received reasonable focus and research attention in metropolitan areas. However, the particular concerns and needs of rural youth have not generally been investigated or documented. This is despite many rural young people experiencing problems relating to their accommodation or lack of it. Some of the problems that particularly apply to rural youth are a lack of accommodation options, unemployment, greater distances to travel, fewer services to access, and often having to live in ‘concealed households’ in order to secure a roof over their heads. Many homeless young people in the country have to live in ‘concealed households’, that is, with their parents, friends, or relatives, as they cannot access housing of their own (Streich et al. 2002). This is particularly problematic for many Australian Indigenous young people in rural and remote communities who regularly reside with friends or relatives as they cannot, or choose not to, access their own accommodation. They are also susceptible to moving into the category of ‘literal homeless or rooflessness’ quite easily if relationships breakdown in the household or if they are asked to leave (Streich et al. 2002). This places a number of young people in the country as being ‘at risk’ of homelessness, if not indeed homeless, on a regular basis.
Homelessness in rural South Australian youth has been investigated through a three stage project involving interviews with experts in the field of rural homelessness and/or homeless youth, focus groups with parents, young people and agency staff in Whyalla and the Upper Eyre Peninsula (N=20) and in-depth interviews, on two occasions, with homeless young people living in Whyalla and Ceduna (N=16). The research involved both Indigenous and nonIndigenous young people in both the focus groups and in-depth interviews process.
The specific concerns presented by South Australian rural youth include the lack of affordable and accessible housing; socio economic disadvantage; invisibility of homelessness; domestic violence and abuse; family breakdown and conflict; boredom; and transience. Also, many young people in South Australia are moving away from the rural areas causing a state of regional drift. The drift occurs for many reasons but the main causes are the need for young people to access education, training, employment, or to escape abusive situations. This movement process leaves many rural young people in a precarious situation in the city, and this is intensified through lack of social supports, knowledge and often little financial assistance. Despite this drift occurring with frequent regularity, currently no support or assistance is in place to reduce the risk of homelessness for this group of rural young South Australians.