Domestic violence, unemployment key issues

By Emma Prior

After delving into the statistics of homelessness last week the Yarrawonga Chronicle has taken a closer look at the biggest factors for homelessness in our area.

Youth unemployment and domestic violence have been found to be the two most common factors that lead to homelessness across the nation and surprisingly play a large role in the local area.

Youth unemployment is unacceptably high in this country with the crisis in Yarrawonga, Cobram, Echuca and the Shepparton region reaching 16.1% of young people who are without a job.

While economic growth is up, inequality is at a 70-year high with investment being cut to schools, universities and TAFE, which is resulting in young people being unable to get the skills they need to get a good secure job.

A milestone study by Yfoundations ‘Skills to Pay the Bills’ found homeless youth experience unemployment in NSW at more than nine times the national average.

The foundation surveyed 700 young people statewide, finding that the unemployment rate among young people who were also homelessness was at a staggering 55 percent, more than nine times the current national unemployment rate of 5.9 percent as well as almost four times the current youth unemployment rate of 13 percent. 

However, the report by Yfoundations showed that statistics cited by various homelessness experts included:

One in three people experiencing homelessness is under the age of 25;

One in eight people experiencing homelessness is under the age of 10;

39,000 school-age children needed homelessness help last year;

One in two adults receiving homelessness help first became homeless before age 18.

Council to Homeless Persons (a peak body representing organisations and individuals in Victoria with a commitment to ending homelessness) said the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data found 38,400 people under the age of 25 accessed Victorian homelessness services in 2015-16. 

That’s nearly 40 percent of all homelessness clients in the state.

Yarrawonga’s Homelessness
Support program

Locally, Yarrawonga Health are funded by the Department of Health and Human Services to run a Homelessness Support program.  

This program receives referrals from a central intake at Beyond Housing and is a short-term case management service for people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.  

Yarrawonga Health Operational Director of Community Services Stephanie Kennedy said the services locally had been accessed by a number of people who had been suffering with financial difficulties.  

“Homelessness and unemployment can often go hand in hand, however there are many clients who are keen to get back into the workforce and this is made easier once housed,” Ms Kennedy said. 

“When you are homeless you are often just trying to survive, to find somewhere to stay each night, trying to secure food for yourself and your family and trying to keep it all together.

“Unemployment is a factor that can impact on someone being/remaining homeless. Poverty and a low income means that people have less resources or finances and choices.

“Clients are sometimes trying to hold down a job or their school studies whilst homeless but this is extremely difficult to do as you can imagine; simple things like not being able to access a shower, how do you do your homework whilst in an overcrowded premises or in a tent?”

Many of the people who have used the Yarrawonga Health service have worked before and enjoy the pride and work ethic that goes with it and socialising with workmates and having social interaction is extremely beneficial for them.

“Finances help but they are not the sole solution to homelessness but it definitely helps,” said Ms Kennedy.

“Youth unemployment is an issue in a lot of places, including our region and a lot of local young people do not want to leave their hometowns, but there is no youth specific resources in small towns with very few/if any foster carers etc. The nearest youth refuges are in Albury or Shepparton.

“There are schemes set up to assist youth who may be disadvantaged get through school with the Youth Foyer in Shepparton an amazing program where homeless/disadvantaged youth are housed and supported 24/7 whilst studying at the GOTAFE. 

“This is a partnership between GOTAFE, Berry Street and Beyond Housing. This is available for youth aged between 16 and 24. The Victorian Government is also a key backer of the project which is very successful.”

While losing a job and not being able to put dinner on the table can be stressful it can also lead to domestic violence which in turn can result in homelessness.

NSW Homelessness Industry and Workforce Development Strategy reported domestic violence is one of the key players contributing to homelessness in Australia, particularly for women.

Homelessness caused by domestic violence is also closely tied to a victim’s financial independence. 

In Australia, women are usually economically worse off than men: they are more likely to take time out of the workforce to take on caring roles or to work part-time and are paid less than their male counterparts for the same work.

When a victim decides to leave a violent relationship, it often means leaving the family home. 

In a vast number of cases the violence is against a woman and her options are usually limited.

This often results in accessing a service like Carrie’s Place Domestic Violence and Homelessness Services which is in huge demand nationally. 

Ms Kennedy said a number of cases that have been referred to Yarrawonga Health have suffered domestic violence in some way.

“When an assessment is done initially with clients it identifies any domestic violence that may have led to the client/s needing homelessness support, sometimes it is not identified until you have been working with a client/s for some time – it may be hidden or not seen as domestic violence by the client/s,” Ms Kennedy said.

“The past of these people almost always contains domestic violence in some form  – either growing up as a child, or with past partners. It is a very common issue that can still affect clients and their children psychologically and on many different levels for many years to come.

“So it something we expect to hear rather than not.”

According to Homelessness Australia, 423 people are turned away from homelessness services every day.

In accordance with the AHURI BRIEF by the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, 37.8 per cent of Specialist Homelessness Services clients last year were escaping domestic and family violence. 

Specialist Homelessness Services (SHS) assist people who are experiencing, or at risk of experiencing homelessness.
Stated in the most recent AHURI BRIEF data, during 2015–16, SHS recorded 105,619 clients that needed help because they had experienced domestic and family violence. 

This number accounted for 37.8 per cent of all SHS clients in that year, an increase of over 4 percent from 33.7 per cent in the 5 years previous. 

In addition, in the past three years women aged 18+ escaping domestic violence accounted for nearly a quarter (22.5%) of all SHS clients.

Of those SHS clients recorded as escaping domestic and family violence, 62,751 (or 59.4%) were women aged 18 and older, 36,361 (34.4%) were children aged 17 years and younger and 6,506 (or 6.2%) were men aged 18 and older.

“We have heard the occasional story from male victims of domestic violence, it is a very complex area and one that we don’t know much about as it is very much underreported and therefore difficult to research/analyse,” Ms Kennedy said.

“The overall majority of cases that we see or hear about have the woman and children as the victims and the male as the perpetrator. 

“Believe it or not domestic violence is an issue in our area – it’s important to remember that domestic violence affects all sectors of our community – it is not solely a poor persons, disadvantaged, working class issue – it can affect the financially well off, the famous and “respectable” and the rates are higher in same sex couples  – there is no section of our society where it does not exist.”