Homelessness is a social problem in Australia. Youth homelessness in Australia has been on the increase due to several factors, and it is assumed that these factors may assist in the intervention and prevention of youth homelessness. The only way to decrease youth homelessness is to address the structural factors that cause it. This paper will begin by defining homelessness according to the Supported Accommodation Assistance Act 1994 and by other prominent authors of youth homelessness. Structural factors will be then discussed, including unemployment and lack of affordable housing, as prominent causes for the increase in youth homelessness. It will be argued that the Australian 'nuclear' family has changed since the 1970's and has contributed to why some individuals or families face homelessness more than others. Government responses to youth homelessness, especially after the release of the Burdekin Report, will be examined, specifically the Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP) and the Reconnect Program. SAAP, being the primary focus, will be examined to determine whether the program is adequate in breaking the homelessness cycle.
Crane & Brannock (1996, p. 7) argue that the way in which homelessness is defined affects the way research is carried out and what policies are pursued. What is homelessness? Homelessness is defined in terms of the character of a person's housing situation and adequacy (Crane & Brannock, 1996, p. 6). This definition is backed up by the Supported Accommodations Assistance Act 1994 that states that a 'person is homeless if, and only if, he or she has inadequate access to safe and secure housing' (S. 4.1 ). There are a variety of factors that contribute to the cause of homelessness amongst young people. Various studies have been initiated to investigate these factors to develop prevention and intervention strategies for youth homelessness. The most prominent of these studies was Our Homeless Children, conducted by Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commissioner Brian Burdekin, commonly known as the Burdekin Report.
The factors causing homelessness can be broken down into three different categories: structural, external and situational (Fopp 1993; Sheridan et al. 1983; Morgan & Vincent 1987 cited in Crane & Brannock 1996, p. 7). Structural factors, being the prominent focus in this paper, have had a dominant effect on youth homelessness since the 1980's and 1990's. Structural factors are defined as being related to social, economic and family structure. The key structural factors that lead to youth homelessness as described by Chamberlain (1994, p. 15) are unemployment and lack of affordable housing. Dywer (1989, p. 12) specifies that the Burdekin Report indicate that the structural causes of youth homelessness are also unemployment, housing policy, inadequate incomes as well as lack of community support and services. The rise in youth unemployment, as seen by both authors, is a distinguished cause of youth homelessness. In Australia, the long-term underlying trend of unemployment has been distinctly upward since the 1970's (White & Wyn, 2004, p. 169). Since employment is an opportunity to escape homelessness, the rise in unemployment amongst young people has contributed considerably to homelessness. The lack of affordable housing, as Crane and Brannock (1996, p. 9) discuss, can be associated with a combination of low incomes and high housing costs as well as other factors such as discrimination against young people in gaining rental accommodation, inadequacy of wages, lack of access to jobs, and unsuitable housing. Although structural factors affect the risk factors they cannot pre-determine that family conflict will lead to homelessness (Chamberlain, 1994, p. 16).
While structural factors are important for explaining the increase in youth homelessness between the 1970's and present (Chamberlain & Mackenzie, 1994, p. 8), there are other factors that help us...
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