The Hidden Homeless – HERALD SUN Editorial

We are the first to call out poor reporting of homelessness issues, and have even created media guidelines for journalists reporting on homelessness.

We’re also keen to commend good, balanced coverage of homelessness, and printed below is a piece by the Herald Sun that is just that. It shifts the focus to structural issues that are beyond the control of the individual, avoids reporting only on rough sleeping, doesn’t denigrate or vilify, provides solutions, and ultimately joins the dots between skyrocketing rents and rising homelessness. 

HERALD SUN Editorial – The Hidden Homeless

Wednesday 10 January
WHILE the crisis in homelessness has been writ large on the streets of central Melbourne, the hidden child victims have grown rapidly in number.

Drugs, mental health, lack of employment, trauma and alcoholism are factors often associated with adult homelessness.

But child homelessness, affecting minors from preschoolers to teens, can be driven by neglect, family dysfunction or, simply, financial stress and parental unemployment.

Cut adrift from a stable home life, these children also include victims of domestic violence.

Many other parents, both single and dual, are doing their best to care for their children without a fixed abode. But skyrocketing property prices and   resultant pressures on rent, together with stretched government housing, have pushed some  families to the brink.

As reported in today’s Herald Sun, homeless agencies are struggling to manage almost 12,000 Victorian preschool, primary and secondary kids who have sought help in a single year.

Between 2016 and last year, an extra 1377 schoolchildren accessed homeless services — representing a huge 13 percent increase.

Many of those additional children and their families face homelessness because of rising costs of living in private rent and energy costs.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, more than half of all those added children in need were primary school age. It will come as little surprise that unless a consistent learning foundation is set at primary school, kids face escalating difficulties in secondary education and subsequent success in securing employment. Certainly, adult homelessness is a complex issue which needs to be comprehensively tackled in the CBD.

But across the suburbs and into regional Victoria, greater effort and resources must be applied to giving children the security they deserve.

Providing a roof over their heads and a stable environment in which to attend school, feel safe and be loved is fundamental as a short-term necessity. 

But the long-term benefits to both the individual child and the wider community — including related employment participation, health benefits and reduced reliance on welfare as adults — must be a cornerstone of government policy.  

The Council to Homeless Persons is seeking a $17.6 million allocation from the Victorian government across four years in the upcoming state budget to tackle the issue.

The funds are aimed at supporting thousands of children to stay in school, help them with school costs and provide behaviour and anger management programs.

Additionally, calls are being made to train teachers to better identify and address homeless issues within the school environment to provide early intervention and assistance.

Any community is judged on how it cares for its most vulnerable and more must be done to address homelessness affecting the young.

In a related field, the Andrews Government has moved to standardise school absenteeism reports to parents. A loophole giving schools three days to tell parents a child was absent was revealed by the Herald Sun after a child was found hiding in a hot car in November.

But while parents are now required to be informed of absenteeism   “as soon as practicable” the same day, the policy remains too fluid and appears set to limit the liability of government schools.