Mental Health and Homelessness

30 April 2021

It might surprise you (or not) that every night more than 116,427 people in Australia are homeless, with a significant proportion of them living with mental health issues. The number of homeless people with a current mental health issue is highest for 15–17-year-olds, followed by 18–24-year-olds. Many of these are young people exiting the foster care/ child protection system at 18.

Over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in the homelessness statistics

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are over-represented in the homeless population. They make up 3 per cent of the Australian population, yet the rate of homeless people with a mental health issue is more than 7 times as high for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people than non-Indigenous Australians. The Northern Territory has the highest homelessness rate in the country.

The role of accommodation in improved mental wellbeing

Safe, secure, appropriate and affordable housing allows people to focus their attention on mental health recovery and can improve mental health by facilitating independence, social relationships and networks. People with lived experience of mental ill health are often assisted with housing by their families and carers who are unfunded or subsidised by government to do so. Families and carers are therefore positioned as an unfunded back up system, in many cases stepping in - despite their own issues and situations - to provide the housing support that the official government funded system cannot provide.

NMHCCF recommends

The NMHCCF is also aware that there are people who continue to fall through the net, discharged from hospitals, custodial care, or other mental health facilities into homelessness. It is critical that more programs are provided to support the timely transition to safe housing when exiting these facilities. In most cases the decision is made to discharge someone based on availability even where this is unsuitable – for example to a boarding house.

Download the full advoacy brief

Advocacy Brief - Mental Health and Homelessness