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Habitat Australia: Addressing homelessness in Australia

Article by: Ilaria.
A home isn’t just a roof, it’s everything that goes on beneath it.
Housing is a basic human need. It lays down the roots of safety from which families and individuals alike can begin to grow. Having a place to call home is essential to the maintenance of our physical and mental wellbeing.

The Issue:

According to the 2016 Census, 116 427 people were classified as homeless in Australia. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples represented 20% of that population. A quarter of the number were young people aged 12-24, of which 15 872 were children under the age of 12.[i] Homelessness support services in Australia cannot deal with the overwhelming demand for crisis and emergency accommodation with reports in Victoria finding around 26,000 women and children escaping family violence are turned away each year.[ii]

The statistics paint a grim picture and outline the overwhelming need for homelessness support. Homelessness takes many forms, from sleeping rough to overcrowding, couch surfing, and living in temporary accommodation.[iii] Insecure housing arrangements can place the health and safety of homeless people at risk with studies showing 80% of homeless youth report having experienced trauma.[iv]
Accessible and safe housing is the first step away from surviving to thriving. Life without a home can be an isolating experience, especially for young people. Homelessness has been linked to numerous barriers with 67.8% of homeless youth reporting homelessness affected their ability to study and work, while 59.4% of those surveyed reported concern for their ability to cope with stress.[v] SHS data (2018-19) shows that more than two in five young people seeking assistance reported a current mental health issue,[vi] while findings from the ABS reveal people with a mental health condition were more than twice as likely to have experienced homelessness than those without.[vii]

The response:

Habitat for Humanity Australia is a not-for-profit organisation that provides shelter solutions for vulnerable groups and low-income families. We build homes and engage in shelter renovation through corporate volunteering programs and provide recovery services to families adversely affected by fires through specialised initiatives like our  Bushfire Recovery and Resilience Program.

Our corporate volunteering programs operate both locally and internationally. In Australia, Habitat has helped over a thousand people with shelter and home upgrades while engaging over ten thousand volunteers from both the community and corporate sector. Brush with Kindness directs corporate volunteers to activities such as renovation, landscaping, and minor home repairs for people with disabilities, those coming from disadvantaged or socially isolated backgrounds, or fleeing domestic violence.

Habitat Australia also runs issue-based initiatives throughout the year. An example is Homes of Hope. Taking place on International Women’s Day, the program gathers teams of corporate volunteers in a bid to support homeless women and children, many of whom have experienced domestic violence. In 2021, the program attracted 20 teams that, through the refurbishment of women’s transitional and crisis accommodation, contributed to this cause.

At Habitat Australia, we recognise the importance of community. Our volunteering programs run through NAIDOC week, refurbishing and renovating Indigenous community housing. On World Habitat Day (first Monday of October, as designated by the United Nations), we celebrate the right to the adequate shelter by organising volunteer groups for the renovation of shelters and temporary accommodation for vulnerable groups across the country.

By working to help bridge the gap, Habitat for Humanity Australia deals with some of Australia’s most vulnerable groups. There isn’t a single factor leading to homelessness. Commonly cited reasons include family violence, financial issues, and health-related problems.[viii] According to the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI), four out of five ‘very low-income’ households pay unaffordable rent.[ix] Housing insecurity along with inability to meet rent places families and individuals at risk of homelessness.

Habitat for Humanity Australia is steadily working towards increasing the availability of affordable housing and shelter solutions. In Melbourne and Adelaide, we’ve built homes for Habitat Partner Families. Additionally, we offer people from low socio-economic backgrounds the chance to own a home through no-profit loans with repayments capped at 25% of disposable income. Despite rising land prices, our volunteers and contributors work tirelessly to keep costs low and spread Habitat’s vision for an equitable future.

In response to the pressing issue of youth homelessness, Habitat for Humanity South Australia partnered with, Anglicare SA, SA Housing Authority, Rural City of Murray Bridge, and Headspace to create Studio Purpose. The project is now complete and has refurbished units that will provide young people in need with greater security and a safe place to call home.

It’s not all about the building:
As a not-for-profit organisation, Habitat for Humanity relies on donations and corporate sponsors to bring initiatives to life. On our path to helping those in need we’ve developed Fit for Humanity, a program that enables corporations and their employees to put their time and money to a good cause. By registering, corporations pledge to donate to Habitat while supporting their employees’ health and wellbeing. Fit for Humanity keeps people moving, and the wheel of fortune turning, for those that need it most.

Accessible housing offers a platform for personal and material growth – a requirement for social stability and community development.[x]
A house is a home, and a home is a springboard towards a happier future. Help share happiness with Habitat!
For more information on how to get involved visit

[ii], Crime Statistics Agency, Safe Steps, Council to Homeless Persons, DVRCV, KPMG
[iv] Wong, C. F., Clark, L. F., & Marlotte, L. (2016). The Impact of Specific and Complex Trauma on the Mental Health of Homeless Youth. Journal of interpersonal violence, 31(5), 831–854.
[v] Mission Australia, Staying home: A Youth Survey report on young people’s experience of homelessness
[vi] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2020
[viii], General Social Survey 2014
[ix] Parkinson et al. 2019a
[x] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2020