On any night in Australia, one in every 200 people is homeless.
There are more than 105,237 people homeless in Australia. That number includes 17,845 children under 10 years, 402 of whom are sleeping out, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics* (ABS) 2016 data.
This week is Homelessness Week, an annual, national event to raise awareness of people experiencing homelessness and how we can help.
August is an important month to think about homelessness because it is the coldest time of the year. Freezing overnight temperatures make being homeless even more dangerous to someone’s health than it is the rest of the year.
More than 40 kids from Bellerive Primary School in Tasmania will be roughing it in sleeping bags this Friday night as the school hosts a Homeless Experience.
Students from grade three up to grade six will be spending the night in their sleeping bags in the school hall to raise awareness of homelessness.
Nine-year-old Evelyn McPherson said the night would give her a deeper understanding of how people without homes would feel.
“It’s going to be a little bit difficult because you’re not on a mattress,” she said.
The students will be eating soup and bread outside, will scope* out an area in the schoolyard they would sleep if they had to, and will receive an address about homelessness by the Salvation Army.
They will be sleeping indoors with a sleeping bag and pillow and will not be allowed to have any electronic devices or treats. A total of $10 per child will be donated to the Salvation Army.
WHAT DOES HOMELESS MEAN?
The ABS considers someone homeless if they don’t have a suitable place to stay or if they might have to move out of where they are staying soon or without notice.
People who are experiencing homelessness are usually staying in improvised dwellings*, tents or sleeping out or in supported accommodation for the homeless. They could also be staying temporarily at someone else’s house, at a boarding house or other temporary accommodation or in severely overcrowded housing.
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
Homelessness Australia* is encouraging people to call on politicians to make changes needed to end homelessness. You could attend an event during homelessness week or visit your local member of parliament at their office or write a letter to them to explain the importance of doing more to end homelessness.
Australia’s capital city mayors are preparing to host a national summit on homelessness in the coming months, at which they will try to come up with and agree on ideas to help. You could also choose to contact the mayor in your area or your capital city to share your concern before the summit.
Many national and local organisations — such as church groups and charities — provide practical help for people experiencing homelessness. The Salvation Army, the Brotherhood of St Laurence, St Vincent de Paul and Foodbank are examples. Contact an organisation you know of and ask how you can best help.
- Australian Bureau of Statistics: government agency that collects and analyses information about Australia’s population
- scope: how
- improvised dwellings: places to stay made with whatever materials are around
- Homelessness Australia: a national organisation run by volunteers to speak on behalf of homelessness organisations
- How many children are homeless in Australia?
- Why is August an especially important time to help people experiencing homelessness?
- What will the students at Bellerive Primary do with money raised when they sleep in the school hall?
- How could you share your concerns about homelessness with politicians?
- Why are the capital city mayors meeting?
LISTEN TO THIS STORY
1. How can you help?
Create a program of activities that your class or school could do for Homelessness Week. Your activities should help kids and teachers in your school learn more about the problem of homelessness. You should also include activities that might help homeless people.
Time: allow 25 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Personal and Social Capability
What changes do you think politicians need to make to help end homelessness? Write a letter to your local state or federal member of parliament explaining why this is an important issue and what you think needs to be done.
Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Civics and Citizenship, Personal and Social Capability
After reading the article, with a partner, highlight as many pieces of punctuation as you can find in green. Discuss how these are being used, where and how often. What level of the punctuation pyramid is the journalist using in this article?
HAVE YOUR SAY: Have you or anyone you know experienced homelessness? What ideas do you have for how you or your school could help end homelessness in Australia?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.