CEO Message: Homelessness Week, Everyone needs a home

The theme of this year’s Homelessness Week, ‘Everyone needs a home’, has never felt more true or urgent than now, as Melbourne/Victoria enters its sixth lockdown tonight, joining two other Australian states currently under strict pandemic restrictions. For those of us with the security of a stable, safe and warm place to call home, this now doubles as a pathway to health, connection and wellbeing in the middle of a global health crisis.

CMY is concerned for the young people and families of migrant and refugee backgrounds who experience homelessness and slip through the cracks for support. It is our experience that homelessness among these groups is on the increase, and becoming more entrenched without a complete understanding of the extent of their concerns and effective responses. A recent article by the ABC notes some of our research on this, which was presented at last year’s Inquiry to Homelessness and highlights just a few examples of the realities of homelessness among Victoria’s multicultural community.  

The 2019-20 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare specialist homelessness services annual report reported 290,500 Australians accessed specialist homelessness services in this twelve month period, and of these 40 per cent were aged under 25 years. It is estimated that young people from refugee backgrounds are six to ten times more likely to be at risk of homelessness than Australian-born young people, although this may not always be captured by official statistics.

Homelessness among young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds is often ‘hidden’ when experienced as couch surfing or overcrowding. These young people and families also tend to underutilise mainstream housing/homelessness services, and so go undetected. The lack of youth emergency accommodation that is gender and culturally appropriate adds a layer of complexity and risk for young women, particularly those seeking refuge from family violence.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenge for all, but we are seeing that some young people and families from refugee and migrant backgrounds have been particularly vulnerable to homelessness during this time. Families living in overcrowded housing and transient young people have faced other significant challenges during the crisis, impacting on young people’s ability to learn or work from home, adhere to social distancing requirements, and protect their own health and wellbeing.

Funding for services needs to include targeted support and referrals, to ensure they reach many of those in need and that no one slips through the cracks, particularly in this time of crisis. Greater collaboration between sectors and consultation with young people with the lived experience of homelessness is also necessary to inform the action needed to achieve long-lasting solutions.

The coming Census provides an opportunity for the capturing of CALD data in order to gain a more accurate understanding of young people’s needs. We encourage everyone to participate in the 2021 Census on Tuesday 10 August to help inform the crucial services that improve the lives of young people, families and communities.

Premier Daniel Andrews has announced that Victoria will enter a 7 day circuit breaker lockdown, effective from 8pm Thursday 5 August 2021. Learn more here: