Every night, around 105,000 people are homeless or sleeping rough across the country, with almost half of those aged under 25 years, and nearly 18,000 children under the age of 12 years.
Department of Human Services General Manager Hank Jongen said World Homeless Day, held annually on 10 October, is a timely reminder of the difficult challenges faced by those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
“The department is often the first point of contact for many people facing homelessness, so it’s vital frontline staff can quickly identify individuals and families at risk, and offer information, resources and appropriate support,” Mr Jongen said.
“Youth and children at risk of homelessness are especially vulnerable. At any point in a given year, around 29,000 children are homeless, with many leaving home due to family violence, child abuse or family breakdown.
“Typically, young people experiencing homelessness are difficult to identify and less likely to be aware of the support services available. They might often find themselves couch-surfing, or staying with friends or relatives for short periods of time.”
Mr Jongen said the department has a network of specialist staff who link vulnerable people with government and local community services.
“Social workers and Community Engagement Officers connect people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, with Centrelink payments and referrals to local support services,” Mr Jongen said.
“These specialists have regular contact with refuges, crisis accommodation and service providers in their communities to identify vulnerable people who may require further assistance.
“Through these networks, our specialists work to build trust with these people so they feel comfortable opening up and talking about their situation. After assessing their needs, staff will then connect them to the most relevant support services, like youth refuges, medical services, education and employment support.
“This is about helping to build the foundations for a strong, healthy and stable future, so it’s important we work together to tackle poverty and come up with innovative ways to collaborate and address the underlying factors causing homelessness in the first place.”
For more information on government payments and support services for those at risk of homelessness, visit humanservices.gov.au/socialwork