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Being homeless

homeless; home; homelessness; leaving; housing; shelter;


In the 2006 Australian census, 105,000 people were recorded as homeless. Around 21% were young people aged between 12 and 18. (Figures for the August 2011 census are not yet available.)

What being homeless means

There are 4 main types of homelessness.

  1. Sleeping 'rough' - that is, sleeping on the streets, in a park, on a bench, on the beach, or in some other area that is basically out in the open.
  2. Staying with a friend or relative, or 'couch-surfing' around from one place to another.
  3. Staying in a refuge or short-term boarding house.
  4. Staying in a boarding house where people may live for weeks, months or years when they are not able to find a home of their own.

Causes of young people becoming homeless

There are many reasons why young people become homeless - it could be any one or more of the following:

  • Problems at home, eg. feeling unsafe, being abused, fighting between parents, fighting between siblings, feeling unwanted, parents' divorce, trouble with a parent's new partner, a new baby in the house, money worries, too many rules, not enough rules, not getting on with foster parents.
  • Problems at school, eg. bullying, teasing, finding schoolwork too hard or too easy, problems with teacher(s), not having any friends.
  • Problems with peers, eg. peer group pressure, teasing, spreading rumours, sexist or racist harassment.
  • Problems with the law, eg. drinking, drug use, stealing, graffiti, vandalism, assault, involvement with gangs, breaking in.
  • Problems with boyfriends/girlfriends, eg. breaking up, being dumped, not wanting to take 'no' for an answer.

What to do before you leave home

Ask yourself some questions.

  • Is there anything I can do to improve the situation rather than leave?
  • Who can I talk to about this?
  • Where will I go?
  • Who can help me?
  • How will I survive?
  • Am I being realistic?
  • Who will I call if I get into trouble?
  • What will happen when I come home again?
  • Is leaving a safe option?

Dangers of being homeless

  • Living rough can put you at risk of being harmed or manipulated by others.
  • You could find yourself doing things that you don't want to, just to survive. Some young people get into prostitution, stealing and drugs, which can put them more in the control of others and in trouble with the Police.
  • You can be at risk of sexual abuse or rape.
  • It is hard to get proper food.
  • There is nowhere to store any of your belongings and they could get stolen.
  • There may be nowhere to wash yourself or your clothes.
  • You could become very depressed and not care about what happens to you.

People who can help

  • Try talking to another family member, eg. grandparents, a parent, older siblings, other relatives. They may be able to give you somewhere to live for a while and help you get things organised.
  • Talk to your school counsellor if you are still at school. He or she could help you get into touch with people who can help.
  • If you are homeless there are many free services that can help you. Many that are for South Australian are listed at the end of this topic.

Every person has rights. Services for people who are homeless should always be respectful of their rights. If you feel that people are not being respectful towards you, then you have the right to complain.

How to help your friend

If your friend has become homeless, you could help by:

  • talking to someone you know and trust who you think might be able to help
  • being a good listener for your friend - you don't have to solve the problems
  • helping them out with food, or a place to for your friend to stay or to leave his belongings (make sure it's OK with your parents first if you live at home)
  • don't try to be a 'fix-it' person - everyone needs to have some control over their own lives
  • not gossiping around your group - you wouldn't like it if people were gossiping about you
  • going to appointments with your friend - eg. Centrelink - as moral support.


The census figures show a large number of young people listed as homeless on the night the census was taken.

  • The good news is that many of these young people would be away from home for only a couple of days before they were able to meet with their families, work things out and go back to live in their homes again.
  • Some of these young people will be helped to find accommodation and work, and will be supported by service organisations until they can manage their lives.
  • Unfortunately, some of these young people will feature again in the next census.

Maybe you can help by doing some volunteer work in a shelter or some other organisation that helps the homeless. You would be doing something worthwhile and at the same time learning about the reality of being homeless.

If you or a friend are having problems at home, it may help you to have a better understanding of how to communicate and with whom.



For emergency accommodation, contact a crisis accommodation service close to you. In South Australia you can contact:

  • Crisis Care - Tel: 131611.
  • Kids Helpline - Tel: 1800 55 1800.
  • Youth Healthline - Tel: 1300 13 17 19.
  • Trace-a-Place and Get-a-place, Service to Youth Council
    Tel: 1800 807 364 or 8412 8150
  • Your local police station.

Income support

In Australia you may be able to get a payment or income. Contact Centrelink - Tel: 13 24 90 - to make an appointment to speak to someone or go to for further information. If you find it hard to approach Centrelink, get support from another service - don't give up.

Other services in South Australia

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The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Youth Healthline on 1300 13 17 19 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).
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