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  • 1. Homelessness NSW The dynamics of homelessness: establishing the links between pathways into homeless and duration Guy Johnson Post Doctoral Research Fellow AHURI, RMIT University [email_address]
  • 2.
    • Central research question
      • Is there a connection between how people become homeless and what subsequently happens to them ? This includes how people respond to homelessness, how long they remain homeless and how they ‘get out’ and ‘stay out’ of homelessness
  • 3. What is the homeless subculture?
    • . . . is not a subculture in the conventional sense, though, in that it is neither anchored in nor embodies a distinctive set of shared values. Rather . . . its distinctiveness resides in a patterned set of behaviours, routines and orientations that are adaptive responses to the predicament of homelessness itself and to the associated conditions of street life (Snow and Anderson 1993:76).
    • Snow and Anderson’s definition draws attention to the way interactions among people experiencing homelessness are both patterned and routinised. However, these patterns and routines do not simply occur because of a shared set of values or beliefs, but also because of their ‘common predicament’ which gives rise to ‘an identifiably unique set of behaviours, daily routines and cognitive orientations ’ (Snow & Anderson 1993:39).
    RMIT University Slide
  • 4. Becoming homeless
    • Five ‘ideal typical’ pathways into homeless were identified. They are:
    RMIT University Slide
      • Domestic violence (N=14)
      • Housing crisis (N=24)
      • Substance abuse (N=18)
      • Mental health problems (N=6)
      • Youth (N=41)
  • 5. Being homeless
    • One, the findings show that most people in the domestic violence and housing crisis groups resist homelessness and reject the idea of being homeless. They typically manage, through their day-to-day routines, the stigma of homelessness in such a way as to ‘pass’ as normal . These homeless careers tend to be shorter (Average 8 months)
    RMIT University Slide
  • 6. Being homeless continued...
    • Two, the data show people whose pathway was mental health problems are frequently exploited in the early stages of their homeless careers. Most retreat to the margins of society to avoid this which increases their isolation and feelings of exclusion. These are the longest homeless careers (average 73 months)
    RMIT University Slide
  • 7. Being homeless continued...
    • In contrast, most people who became homeless because of substance use , and many of those who became homeless before they were 18 years of age (youth), engage with the homeless subculture. Engaging with the homeless subculture commonly results in a range of cognitive and behavioural adaptations which typically ‘lock’ them in the homeless population. Consequently, these tend to be longer homeless careers (average 50 months) (See Duration Slide)
    RMIT University Slide
  • 8. Select findings
    • Overall, the longitudinal study found that two thirds of the people who reported substance abuse problems developed them after they became homeless . (See Substance Abuse)
    • It also found three quarters of the people with mental health problems developed them after they became homeless , and for many this was also connected to drug use. (See Mental Illness Slide)
    RMIT University Slide
  • 9. Exiting homelessness
    • Just under two thirds were housed (62 per cent) and 38 per cent were homeless.
    RMIT University Slide
    • 79 households were re-interviewed between 9 -12 months later.
    TABLE 6: Housing status by pathway 12 months after exiting transitional accommodation Housing status Domestic Violence Housing Crisis Substance abuse Mental illness Youth TOTAL Housed 90 79 56 50 53 62 Homeless 10 21 44 50 47 38 TOTAL 100 100 100 100 100 100
  • 10. Getting out and staying out
    • For dissenters and most people on the domestic violence and housing crisis pathways the provision of affordable and appropriate housing was sufficient to help them stay out.
    • For many people on the youth (escapers) and substance use pathways the main exit strategy involves ‘ associational distancing ’ – that is steering clear of homeless friends and the homeless subculture
    • The findings show this strategy commonly results in isolation and boredom , and this can lead to re-engagement with other homeless people and trigger further episodes of homelessness.
    RMIT University Slide
  • 11. RMIT University Slide Policy Implications
    • The white paper, The Road Home , identifies three broad strategies:
    • Early intervention: targeting high risk groups (see State Care and Protection)
    • Improving existing services: the role of the homelessness service system
    • Breaking the cycle: sustaining exits from homelessness
  • 12. Conclusion
    • To explain how people ‘get out’ and ‘stay out’ of the homeless population you have to understand how people become homeless and how becoming homeless mediates responses to being homeless.
    RMIT University Slide
  • 13. RMIT University Slide Table 1: Selected findings, duration (N=4,291) Duration Pathway Housing crisis Family breakdown Mental Illness Substance abuse Youth Duration > 1 yr (%) 31 36 76 72 80
  • 14. Substance abuse RMIT University Slide I was more frightened in there than when I was on the streets. I was trembling because there were all these big dudes … There was nothing I could talk to them about apart from drugs. The only thing we had in common was heroin (Palik). We found, however, that 43 per cent of the sample had substance abuse problems. TWO THIRDS developed problems AFTER they became homeless. Young people were far more likely to develop substance abuse problems after they became homeless than any other group. Johnson, G. and C. Chamberlain (2008). "Homelessness and Substance Abuse: Which Comes First?" Australian Social Work 61 (4): 342-356 . Table 2: Substance abuse identified or not identified before homelessness N Per cent Substance abuse problems identified 656 15 Not identified 3,635 85 TOTAL 4,291 100 Table 3: Substance abuse identified before or after homelessness N Per cent Substance abuse problems before homelessness 656 34 Substance abuse problems after homelessness 1,284 66 TOTAL 1,940 100
  • 15. Mental illness 31 per cent of the sample had mental health problems. And just over half developed problems AFTER they became homeless. Young people were far more likely to develop mental health problems after they became homeless than any other group. Johnson, G. and C. Chamberlain “Are the homeless mentally ill? Forthcoming . Table 5: Mental illness identified before or after homelessness N Per cent Mental health problems before homelessness 634 47 Mental health problems after homelessness 703 53 TOTAL 1,337 100 Table 4: Mental illness identified or not identified before homelessness N Per cent Mental health problems identified 634 15 Not identified 3,657 85 TOTAL 4,291 100
  • 16. State care and protection RMIT University 63% 29% Johnson, G. and C. Chamberlain (2008). "From Youth to Adult Homelessness." Australian Journal of Social issues 43 (4): 563-582. Table 7: Number in state care and protection, selected group (per cent) Youth aged 10 – 17* Homeless secondary students** Homeless adults and young adults^ State care and protection 0.5 15 42 * Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2006:34); ** Source: Chamberlain and Mackenzie (2007:16); ^ Information on 72 per cent of cases Table 8: Age first homeless (adults and young adult) by experience of state care (per cent) Age Been in state care (N=507) No state care (N=712) All (N=1,219^) 11 or younger 20 3 10 12 to 14 43 26 33 15 to 17 33 59 48 18 4 12 9 TOTAL 100 100 100 ^ Information on 72 per cent of cases