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Young people share their experiences of homelessness to help improve policy and services

A new research report aims to raise awareness around the experiences of homeless young people and develop recommendations to respond to and prevent youth homelessness.

The Policy and support needs of independent homeless young people 12-15 years: Young people’s voices  report has been prepared for the Commissioner for Children and Young People WA by Edith Cowan University.

The research asked young people about their experiences of homelessness, what services they used, what they found useful or unhelpful.

The young people spoke about their experiences into early homelessness which often started before their 16th birthday through five main pathways – abandonment or being told to leave home, removal from parents, fleeing family violence or abuse, family disintegration and family homelessness, and voluntary homelessness.

Despite showing resourcefulness and persistence, most of the young people interviewed found homelessness a difficult experience.  

Young people under 16 years of age who are living independently from family and are homeless or in marginal housing, experience a range of challenges such as continuing to attend school and lack of access to money. For them, accessing services and supports is difficult due to their young age and they are often not counted in homelessness statistics.

Commissioner Colin Pettit said that homelessness had a serious impact on young people’s wellbeing.

“Young people who are homeless face physical and mental health issues, difficulties in attending and learning in school and an increased risk of harm,” Commissioner Colin Pettit said.

 “The voices of these young people, together with the youth service providers’ perceptions, will help to shed a light on the implications on policy and services.

“I thank all of the young people who participated to make this report possible. It is important that the views of young people who have experienced homelessness are heard and responded to in a practical way so programs and their services that support their wellbeing can be improved and better targeted.”