Youth homelessness rising as housing crisis bites

Australia's housing shortage and other crises are leaving more children and young people teetering on the edge of homelessness, as campaigners call for an end to the vicious cycle.

There were 122,494 people experiencing homelessness on census night in 2021, with 23 per cent aged 12 to 24 and 14.4 per cent under the age of 12.

Based on the figures, more than 43,000 Australian children and young people could be without a home each night.

Youth homelessness awareness
Some 268 cut-outs represent the most recent figure of people under 25 sleeping rough in Melbourne.

Harry Sanders was forced to couch-surf and sleep at homeless camps and under a Melbourne bridge after he was kicked out of home at age 17.

The teenager was homeless for almost a year but narrowly graduated from high school and moved into a share house.

"I finished school and didn't have the money to do university," the 26-year-old told AAP. 

"My social worker encouraged me to go to an event and I met a business mentor, who encouraged me to work on a business that I started before I got kicked out of home."

He went on to establish StudioHawk, Australia's largest search engine optimisation agency, employing about 80 staff and collecting about $13 million in revenue a year.

Mr Sanders used to feel embarrassed by his past but is speaking to destigmatise the subject and push for more resources to snap the "ruthless cycle".

"We've got all these young Victorians and Australians on the street and some of them won't seek help," he said.

"Youth homelessness is a lot easier to solve because there are a lot less mental complications.

"But if you don't solve it when they're young, it becomes a long-term problem and costs us an absolute fortune."

Eamonn McCarthy, chief executive of youth homelessness charity Lighthouse Foundation, said the number of homeless youth was growing.

"Mental health issues among children and young people are on the rise," Dr McCarthy said.

"Family violence has increased and the higher cost of living, paired with the housing crisis, is pushing more children, young people and families to the brink of homelessness."

Lighthouse Foundation CEO Eamonn McCarthy
Lighthouse Foundation CEO Eamonn McCarthy says young people are facing more challenges.

The types of children needing help from the Victorian-based homelessness foundation are increasingly younger.

"Some of the challenges we may historically have seen for kids who are 15, 16, 17 are now being seen in children as young as seven, eight, and nine," Dr McCarthy said.

Some 268 life-size cut-outs were placed on the steps of Victoria State Library on Wednesday to represent the most recent figure of people under 25 sleeping rough in the City of Melbourne area.

The installation was part of a wider campaign in schools and coincides with Youth Homelessness Matters Day.

Nearby, the Council to Homeless Persons cut a "birthday" cake to mark 18 years since Victoria's last youth homelessness strategy was released.

The council's chief executive Deborah Di Natale said it should serve as a wake-up call for the Victorian government, with nearly 16,000 young people in the state seeking help from homelessness services last year.

"This isn’t just a crisis, it's an intergenerational tragedy that demands bold, immediate, and sustained action," she said.

Victorian Housing Minister Harriet Shing said the government was trying to address weak new dwelling supply through its Development Facilitation Program, with more than 30,000 homes either in the pre-approval process or under active consideration.

Other youth homelessness advocacy groups hosted events in Sydney, Hobart and Darwin on Wednesday.

Lifeline 13 11 14

Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800 (for people aged 5 to 25)

License this article

What is AAPNews?

For the first time, Australian Associated Press is delivering news straight to the consumer.

No ads. No spin. News straight-up.

Not only do you get to enjoy high-quality news delivered straight to your desktop or device, you do so in the knowledge you are supporting media diversity in Australia.

AAP Is Australia’s only independent newswire service, free from political and commercial influence, producing fact-based public interest journalism across a range of topics including politics, courts, sport, finance and entertainment.

What is AAPNews?
The Morning Wire

Wake up to AAPNews’ morning news bulletin delivered straight to your inbox or mobile device, bringing you up to speed with all that has happened overnight at home and abroad, as well as setting you up what the day has in store.

AAPNews Morning Wire
AAPNews Breaking News
Breaking News

Be the first to know when major breaking news happens.


Notifications will be sent to your device whenever a big story breaks, ensuring you are never in the dark when the talking points happen.

Focused Content

Enjoy the best of AAP’s specialised Topics in Focus. AAP has reporters dedicated to bringing you hard news and feature content across a range of specialised topics including Environment, Agriculture, Future Economies, Arts and Refugee Issues.

AAPNews Focussed Content
Subscription Plans

Choose the plan that best fits your needs. AAPNews offers two basic subscriptions, all billed monthly.

Once you sign up, you will have seven days to test out the service before being billed.

AAPNews Full Access Plan
Full Access
AU$10
  • Enjoy all that AAPNews has to offer
  • Access to breaking news notifications and bulletins
  • Includes access to all AAPNews’ specialised topics
Join Now
AAPNews Student Access Plan
Student Access
AU$5
  • Gain access via a verified student email account
  • Enjoy all the benefits of the ‘Full Access’ plan at a reduced rate
  • Subscription renews each month
Join Now
AAPNews Annual Access Plan
Annual Access
AU$99
  • All the benefits of the 'Full Access' subscription at a discounted rate
  • Subscription automatically renews after 12 months
Join Now

AAPNews also offers enterprise deals for businesses so you can provide an AAPNews account for your team, organisation or customers. Click here to contact AAP to sign-up your business today.

SEVEN DAYS FREE
Download the app
Download AAPNews on the App StoreDownload AAPNews on the Google Play Store