Hidden problem of homeless students

Young and homeless and living on the streets. 

By AKSHITA BHATIA

Youth homelessness is a hidden problem at Monash University, with students sleeping in cars and couch surfing while they study, a university chaplain has warned.

Monash University chaplain Jay Robinson said there would be 100-150 homeless students enrolled in the university who were not easy to find.

“When I started as chaplain at Peninsula in 2008, there were students who were sleeping in cars. It’s always there I think,” she said.

“A lot of the times students are quite reluctant to say that they are in a situation where they do not have a home.”

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) data shows 6000 young Victorians who were homelessness last year were couch surfing.

“They do not admit that they are homeless, unless it’s drastic when they do not necessarily talk to the university because they might think that the university would kick them out,” Ms Robinson said.

Council to Homeless Persons consumer programs manager Ian Gough said young people often did not make use of available support services.  

“One of the reasons is stigma, because who wants to put your hand up and say that you’re homeless,” he said.

Data on homeless people is often underestimated. 

“I make the mistake all the time thinking that everyone who is homeless comes to our sector but we know from ABS data that is not the case. Seven out of ten people are nowhere near us. It is a real problem,” Mr Gough said.

The affordable housing crisis in Melbourne has also adversely affected young people who are completing their education.

“Low youth allowance payments, rising rents inflamed by the housing crisis, insufficient supports for young people leaving state care and the lack of employment pathways for vulnerable youth, all of them have combined to create a perfect storm,” Mr Gough said.