THE number of WA teenagers aged 15-19 years old who have experienced homelessness is higher than the national average, according to a Mission Australia report released today.
The Young People’s Experiences of Homelessness report revealed that one in five teenagers in WA had experienced homelessness compared to one in six within Australia.
As part of the report, more than 21,800 teenagers aged 15 to 19 responded to survey questions around housing, with more than 15 per cent saying they had been homeless.
This included teenagers living in refuges, transitional accommodation and/or had spent time couch surfing.
There were more than 2300 survey respondents in WA and 436 (more than 18 per cent) reported having been homeless on at least one occasion, the second highest statistic reported for any state or territory.
Of those who reported having couched surfed, only one in five or about 20 per cent nationally indicated that this had happened on just one occasion and 7 per cent said they did this for periods longer than six months.
Of the almost one in five of those who had couch surfed, about 20 per cent reported that they had first done so when they were under 12-years-old.
Young people who took part in the survey said the top three issues facing Australia were mental health, alcohol and drugs, and equity and discrimination.
Mission Australia state director WA Jo Sadler said the report should provide at the very least a “shocking wake-up call to all of us that more needs to be done to help our most vulnerable” – especially young people.
Youth Services area manager Suzanne Caren said Mission Australia’s Youth Accommodation Support Service (YASS) in WA was accommodating and supporting a high number of young people who had complex mental health and alcohol and drug issues.
“These issues, while supported by our staff, often result in a young person’s accommodation being put at risk due to the inability of crisis and transitional services such as ours to provide specialist AOD (alcohol and other drug) and mental health support,” she said.
“Referring young people from crisis accommodation, to medium to long term accommodation options is a difficulty we face every day because of the high level support and case management required before they are ready to make that transition and due to the high demand on beds.
“Our service is seeing adolescents as young as 15, who are unable to reside in their family home due to domestic violence, drug and alcohol use or neglect which is just a tragic set of circumstances for any child to face.”
From the report, seven key recommendations were given to put an end to homelessness, including developing a national homelessness strategy, and preventing young people leaving state care into homelessness.