Cultural Diversity & Homelessness

baby with mum

Some people who are homeless are from CALD (culturally and linguistically diverse) backgrounds. This creates additional barriers to accessing emergency accommodation, long term housing and other support to resolve homelessness. Refugees and asylum seekers face further complications related to legal and language barriers that make it difficult to work and to use social services, increasing their vulnerability to homelessness. With few specialist providers of culturally diverse support models in an over-stretched homeless service system, the homelessness of people from this group often remains hidden.

People from CALD backgrounds are just as likely to suffer the poverty, ill health and violence that are amongst the causes of homelessness.  However they may be unaware of the support services that are available. Due to funding restrictions homelessness services are not always able to provide culturally appropriate support such as translation services and bi-lingual staff.

Culturally appropriate services

Homelessness service models are not always appropriate to the cultural norms of people from diverse backgrounds. For instance, many youth crisis accommodation models raise barriers for particular groups such as Muslim women who are unable to share accommodation with young men. Discrimination on basis of age and race occurs in the private rental system and this is also a challenge.

Refugee and asylum seeker issues

Refugees and asylum seekers are very vulnerable to homelessness. Young refugees are six times more likely to become homeless than other young people. Depending on which category of visa an asylum seeker or refugee holds, their visa conditions may mean they cannot legally work, access Centrelink, Medicare or government assistance to undertake education or training. This means that refugees and asylum seekers may be dependent on community support services, which are generally under-resourced.

Recently arrived migrants and refuges can be especially vulnerable to social isolation as a result of separation from family as well as language and cultural barriers. At some point after arriving in Australia as many as one third of refuges and asylum seekers may become homeless. This is primarily due to the temporary and transitory nature of their accommodation. However, many people in this situation do not consider themselves to have been homeless indicating that they had some form of shelter.

Prior to the resettlement process in Australia many asylum seekers and refugees spend several years in transition in refugee camps, as illegal immigrants in second countries or as internally displaces peoples in their countries of origin. Exposure to conflict, war and transition trauma can limit people’s ability to resettle in a safe country. Parents and guardians may be less able to support children as a result of their refugee experiences