Rough sleeping is just the tip of the iceberg

Rough sleeping is the most visible form of homelessness. Counter to some public perceptions that rough sleeping comprises the majority of homelessness, rough sleepers (those living in improvised dwellings such as tents or sleeping out) represent only 7% of all homelessness in Australia.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics actually has a much broader definition of homelessness, which can include: people using supported accommodation such as crisis accommodation (provided by agencies like Launch Housing); people staying temporarily with other households; people living in boarding houses and other temporary lodgings; and, people living in ‘severely’ crowded dwellings.

Importantly, homelessness is not just about a lack of shelter.

At Launch Housing we believe strongly that homelessness means the absence of a home and all the essentials that are central to what a home provides: privacy, security, warmth, connection and belonging.

Homelessness impacts on an individual’s most basic human rights and every person has the right to a safe and secure home.  Those in our community who experience rough sleeping are some of the most vulnerable, isolated and disadvantaged. Many are subjected to a range of harms with long-term repercussions on their physical, and emotional health and wellbeing.

The scale and complexity of a lived experience can be traumatic and long-lasting.

A Lived Experienced Advisory Group (LEAG) member states: ‘The capacity to catastrophize when you’ve dealt with crisis is so much higher than average. You know what’s possible and that most people’s worst fears have been your reality.’

Another LEAG member comments: ‘Homelessness changes your life for the worse, forever. The ongoing fear of going to the mailbox, even after the crisis is over.’

The journey of crisis often goes unseen.

To build an accurate picture of homelessness in Australia we need to look at the hidden, but no less important, forms of homelessness.  The latest results from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) reveal homelessness impacts more than 116,000 Australians every day, and there was an overall increase of 14% from 2011-16.

There are specific groups of people in crisis that each tell a different story about the scale of homelessness. Nationally, these groups include:

  • 17,503 people living in boarding houses
  • 21,235 people in (homeless specific) supported accommodation
  • 17,725 people staying temporarily with other households
  • 51,088 people living in ‘severely’ crowded dwellings
  • 8,200 people sleeping rough
  • 678 people in other temporary lodging

People experience homelessness for many reasons, the most common being a housing crisis, domestic and family violence, and housing affordability stress.

No experience of homelessness is the same, and a journey of transiency for many takes an unseen path as people sleep in cars, on friend’s couches or in severely crowded dwellings.

Together we can create positive and lasting change

A better understanding of homelessness is key to building lasting positive change. It’s imperative to be well informed, and understand the scale and complexity of the issue and associated solutions.

This will help us develop better preventions, and advocate for robust and practical housing policies to assist more Australians in a housing crisis.                    

Become an advocate for early preventions, and more social housing for all Australians. Join the conversation on Facebook, stay informed, and help us campaign for change.