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Australia Australia's 'hidden' housing problem: Migrants and refugees are overrepresented among the homeless population

22:26  01 august  2021
22:26  01 august  2021 Source:   abc.net.au

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a little boy standing in front of a building: Roya Hamidavi fears she and her son Aiden could become homeless again. (ABC News: Norman Hermant) © Provided by ABC NEWS Roya Hamidavi fears she and her son Aiden could become homeless again. (ABC News: Norman Hermant)

Life in Australia has been a long and exhausting journey for Roya Hamidavi and her family.

After arriving at Christmas Island with her mother and brother in 2012, she was taken to Adelaide and then Brisbane.

The family are Ahwazi Arabs from Iran. They were issued temporary protection visas and in 2015 moved to Melbourne's outer western suburbs.

Finding a home has been a constant struggle.

"It was very hard to find a place," Roya said.

They are refugees, but not permanent residents. Even for places they could afford, their status was a huge barrier.

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"When we offer our documents, we don't have any. Just driver's licence. That's it. We don't have any other documents."

By 2017, Roya had a six-month-old son, Aiden, born in Australia. She had managed to find a place for them to live. But when the landlord sold the property, they had to leave.

"I didn't have any place to go … I searched for different properties, even sharing a house. They didn't accept me," she said.

After piling her belongings into a friend's garage, Roya, like many other refugees, ran out of options. She and her six-month-old son slept in a park.

"That's why I spend one night [on] the street with the child. And we were shaking. I was shaking. So scary. It was like a nightmare."

Since then, she and Aiden have moved in with her mother and brother in a two-bedroom house.

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Aiden, now four, has been diagnosed with multiple disabilities, including cerebral palsy, developmental delay and autism.

The house they're in is crowded and not equipped to handle Aiden's disabilities. But they can only afford the $1,600-a-month rent with the help of community organisation Refugee Voices.

Roya is desperate to move to accessible accommodation for Aiden, who can't move his legs. But she's also worried the family could be homeless again if they lose their current property.

When talking about her situation, she can barely avoid breaking down.

"I don't want anything for myself, just for my son. He has no sin, he [was] born here. I can't take him anywhere else."

The full extent of homelessness is not known

Roya's experience is a common one for many refugees and migrants.

The last census estimated that 15 per cent of the homeless population were people who arrived in Australia in the previous five years. That's more than three times the size of that group in the general population.

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And in the Inquiry into Homelessness in Victoria in 2020, the Centre for Multicultural Youth estimated that young people from refugee backgrounds are six to 10 times more likely to be at risk of homelessness than Australian-born young people.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics said it had measures in place to accurately measure the make-up of homeless populations in this month's census.

It said census staff work with organisations supporting culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) populations to identify homeless people in the community. And they will visit areas where people are known to sleep rough and conduct interviews over a week-long period.

But agencies that work with refugees and migrants said it was hard to know the scope of the problem because housing and support services often don't record data on cultural and linguistic backgrounds.

"I would describe it as a hidden problem because we don't know the full extent," said Elizabeth Drozd, chief of Australian Multicultural Community Services (AMCS).

Her organisation supports older Australians to live in their own homes. Most of their clients are migrants. Many have experienced insecure housing situations after immigrating to Australia.

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"It is not unusual for migrants and refugees not to have anybody here," she said.

"If something happened and you need help, who can you call at 2:00 in the morning? … Is it only you or your son and daughter?"

Lack of support leaves older migrants vulnerable, especially considering that if they've been sponsored by family, many are not eligible for Centrelink payments for up to 10 years.

Sleeping in Lions' Club while waiting for housing

Rodolfo Cabuang and his wife Erlinda Garcia know how quickly things can change.

They came to Australia from the Philippines in 2007 after being sponsored to join their daughter in Melbourne. But a year later, she died.

"After she passed away, we have big problem because her husband cannot accommodate us in the house," 75-year-old Erlinda Garcia said.

"I'm frightened. And I'm very, very sad, of course, because we don't have money, we don't have a place to live."

The couple turned to a community church and wound up sleeping in a Lions' Club in Footscray in Melbourne's west. They were there for nearly four years.

Eventually, they were placed in a public housing unit. AMCS helped them secure Home Care Packages for both Erlinda and Rodolfo, 83. But they know many migrants who simply do not know where to turn for help.

"Some of our friends who are staying here for more than 20 years, and they still don't have the package up to now," Rodolfo said.

Elizabeth Drozd from AMCS has seen this story play out many times.

"There's a family breakdown, there may be a divorce, there may be an accident at work … the impact of that … can be quite significant."

She'd like to see government funding for a pilot program to reach out to the largest migrant communities to ensure those who are living insecurely get help. And she hopes the census will accurately measure the homeless population.

But she believes in addition to these ideas, there's a more basic solution.

"The level of homelessness for seniors has in the last 10 years actually increased by 49 per cent," she said.

"We wouldn't talk about homelessness … if we had adequate housing for people."

Migrants await their fate as tensions mount in Lithuania .
When Eritrean teen Aman Mehari begins to feel the stress, he hits the basketball court in his new temporary home -- a village school turned migrant facility in southern Lithuania. Living in limbo is "very stressful", said Mehari, whose only hope is that his family can join him in Lithuania and "live a happy life".When Eritrean teen Aman Mehari begins to feel the stress, he hits the basketball court in his new temporary home -- a village school turned migrant facility in southern Lithuania.

usr: 1
This is interesting!