2013 Wesley report: homelessness and the next generation

Homelessness Poverty Social issues Housing Australia

This report looks at the immediate and long-term issues facing homeless mothers, their children and those who experienced homelessness as a child. Conducted through an in depth review of existing studies, a series of qualitative interviews with Wesley Mission clients and a policy and practice workshop, the report has resulted in a concise document that captures current experience with onward recommendations.

Homelessness affects the whole family and often leads to a lifetime of repeat occurrences. Over 17 per cent of Australia’s homeless are under the age of 12 (ABS Census 2011).

It is a stark and challenging proposition that for some, homelessness is safer than home.

Key FindingsFor many, homelessness is the safer alternative

We discovered that an ongoing and significant contributing factor to homelessness is abuse around the home. This physical abuse frequently leads to family breakdowns, separation, and women and children being forced out of the home in search of respite and safety. Backing up these findings were homelessness surveys that reported 34 per cent of clients nationwide were seeking homelessness support as a result of domestic violence (AIHW, 2012).         

There are long-term and generational impacts of homelessness 

There is now strong evidence to suggest that people who experience homelessness as a child are more likely to revert back to patterns of homelessness throughout their lives. For these individuals, homelessness becomes a learned behaviour; one that can be passed on through several generations. In fact, almost half (48 per cent) of all respondents to the Intergenerational Homelessness Survey reported that their parents were also homeless at some point in their lives (Flatau et. al., 2013; 2).

The value of supported accommodation goes beyond short-term comfort

This report also discovered that the accommodation offered by support services has had a profound effect on the lives of those in need. Beyond the physical need of shelter, it has the power to give homeless individuals the opportunity to ‘stop and pause.’ In other words, by offering them respite from concern about their immediate survival, many individuals were able to reassess their situation, enabling them for example to search for work, or find a feasible place to rent.

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