The humble backyard shed is the new front line of youth homelessness as overcrowding and the housing affordability crisis leaves increasing numbers out in the cold.
Centacare is seeing more young families and adolescents resort to improvised accommodation for shelter but warns many do not identify themselves as being homeless, which amplifies their risk.
“They think that because they have the shed or the cubby to crash in, they’re not homeless, so they don’t come to us for support,’’ said Tracy Ingram, Manager of Centacare’s Outer North Youth Homelessness Service.
“But it’s not ok to be with a baby in a shed that’s not lined and has rodents.’’
Tracy said the 15 to 25 year age bracket was most at risk.
“Their parents’ house might be overflowing with people, or there’s drug use, or the young person brings their partner home, so they go off to the back shed,’’ she said.
“Sometimes they think the shed is a good option because it’s still connected to the family, so they make the best of their situation. They might fill up the gaps and put some trinkets up, and make it feel nice if that’s all there is.
“But in winter, its freezing, there’s no power. It’s not ok.’’
Youth & Community Support Services Manager Megan Welsh said the homelessness sector was constantly forced to triage applicants for supportive tenancies because of the shortage of social housing.
“There are just not enough places for everyone,’’ she said. “All who come to us deserve a place to call home, even if just for a little while.’’
COVID-19 had exacerbated an already dire situation because the lockdown had led to more family breakdown, Megan said, forcing more people into unsafe situations.
Nationally, there are almost 120,000 Australians without a home every night – 28,000 of them are young people.
“I feel there’s a tsunami coming and, that come September/October, people will start to find it more difficult with the JobSeeker rate changing and perhaps not having relief around their mortgages,’’ Megan said.
“We will see that flow-on effect in homelessness.’’