ACT News


Homelessness and crime link: study

It's an unholy trinity of trouble for vulnerable young people: abuse and neglect, homelessness and juvenile crime. Young people involved in any of the three areas are at increased risk of the other two.

A report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare published on Thursday examined the links between child protection, homelessness and juvenile justice supervision. The findings, which were based on a limited range of available data, were particularly stark for vulnerable young women.

About 15 per cent of young people under juvenile justice supervision had been homeless the previous year and 8 per cent the year after.

Sixteen per cent of young non-indigenous women and 15 per cent of indigenous women in the juvenile justice system received homelessness support within a year of leaving supervision.

Victoria and Tasmania child protection data showed that 6 per cent of young people who were the subjects of ''substantiated notifications'' had been homeless the the previous year and 7 per cent were homeless the year after.

National figures released this weekend showed that homelessness had increased 8 per cent from 2006 levels to about 105,000 people.


The rate of homelessness in the ACT has jumped about 70 per cent over the past five years, with about 30 per cent of homeless people aged 18 years or younger.

Federal Housing Minister Brendan O'Connor said the government had made tackling homelessness a national priority and invested $20 billion in housing and homelessness services since coming to office.

''This research shows the significance of the government's commitment to halving the rate of homelessness by 2020,'' Mr O'Connor said.

Bryan Duke, a program manager with the Ted Noffs Foundation, said vulnerable young people could become caught in a cycle of abuse or neglect, homelessness and involvement in the juvenile justice system,

''What was really shocking to me over the last couple of years has been the number of young females who are homeless and need support,'' Mr Duke said.

''In my experience, everything relates to a broken home-type situation and what we've got now is even second, third generation broken families - with drug and alcohol abuse at home and a real poverty, welfare mentality. Kids are growing up in this and then you've got parents who aren't able to parent.''

Mr Duke runs a range of programs for young people in emergency accommodation.

''Helping and addressing the issue of homelessness isn't just about providing a bed or accommodation. It's about increasing the resilience of those who are going through this so that they can be able to stand on their own two feet and be independent,'' he said.

AIHW spokesman Tim Beard said the study relied on national supported accommodation data, a limited range of juvenile justice data and Victorian and Tasmanian child protection information.

He said it was hoped that more information would become available to enable more detailed research.

''We're hoping that down the track we'll be able to do a much bigger and broader version of this,'' he said.