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2018 APS Congress

The 2018 APS Congress will be held in Sydney from Thursday 27 to Sunday 30 September 2018

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Housing and homelessness

Safe and adequate housing are the foundation for individual and community wellbeing.

Australian psychologists are increasingly concerned about the estimated 105,000 people who are homeless on any given night, and the increasing number of people (particularly families and young people) without stable accommodation. Housing is a key determinant of health, and homelessness is thus associated with many poor health outcomes, including much higher suicide rates and greater likelihood of a violent death, than in the general population.

Key points

  • Homeless people sleep rough or in improvised or severely crowded dwellings, or in supported accommodation.
  • Key contributors to homelessness include poverty, experiencing homelessness as a child, social exclusion (such as racial discrimination), traumatic experience, or substance use. Transitions from jail, inpatient psychiatric services, the birth of first child, a relationship breakdown, or a redundancy/retirement; structural issues (such as insufficient housing stock), climate change and colonisation also contribute to housing insecurity and homelessness.
  • As well as being a fundamental human right, adequate, safe and secure housing provides a foundation for individuals and families to develop a sense of identity and belonging. It is recognised as essential to individual and community wellbeing.
  • Homelessness denies people the right to shelter and safety, disrupts the connections they have with their family and communities, and is also associated with a sense of not belonging, being valued or included in social and community life.
  • The sense of marginalisation and alienation from mainstream society that arises from homelessness also has profound effects on the physical and mental health of those experiencing it.
  • There are particularly detrimental outcomes for marginalised individuals and groups who have complex support and housing needs and are hence likely to experience homelessness. Such groups include those living with a mental illness, single-parent families, Indigenous Australians and young people.
  • Tackling the factors that drive homelessness and increasing access to services are among the recommended policy responses to homelessness. Providing secure housing, including long-term accommodation with support and housing subsidies, is a priority.

How the APS is involved

Psychologists have much to offer in the field of homelessness. This includes the provision of psychological services for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness, and program research, design and evaluation. Psychologists can also help influence public attitudes towards homeless people.

The APS addresses homelessness primarily from a psychological perspective, identifying specific vulnerable groups with complex needs who are particularly affected.

The APS also recognises that social deteminants of health such as family violence, poverty and life transition crises can amplify the risk of homelessness and exacerbate its effects.

A special edition of InPsych (October 2009) addressed homelessness. The special issue followed a roundtable on homelessness hosted by the APS for psychologists and other professionals working with people experiencing or at risk of homelessness

The APS has contributed a number of submissions to housing-related government inquiries.