In Australia, more than 10,000 tertiary-level students were homeless, with the majority of them living in “severely overcrowded” homes, new statistics revealed.
Others were living in homeless facilities, cars, boarding houses, as well as couchsurfing. They represent close to 10 percent of all homeless Australians, the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) reported.
It’s a “phenomenal” situation, says Kate Colvin, deputy chief executive of the Council to Homeless Persons.
“It’s almost impossible for students on low incomes to afford housing, and that’s why we’re seeing increased homelessness of university and TAFE students.”
Major centres in Australia suffer from a lack of affordable housing available despite the apartment boom in cities like Sydney and Melbourne. Rent is skyrocketing yet the Commonwealth Rent Assistance payment is stilll capped at AU$89.97 a fortnight.
International students are affected by this too. Monthly living and studying costs in Sydney is one of the most expensive in the world, according to a report by Savills World Research and student accommodation provider Student.com. This leaves many with no choice but being forced into exploitative, precarious and sometimes illegal living arrangements.
A recent investigation by SBS how international students are exploited by their university-affiliated housing contracts as well.
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In the latest report by SMH, students interviewed report deplorable living conditions and the mental cost of living so. Rhys Mitchell who was looking forward to studying psychology at Victoria University had to squat on an airbed in an abandoned hoarder’s house he chanced upon. It’s not ideal, but it was the only one he could find and afford as his employer then was having financial troubles. On the floor, there were dead rats. In the fridge, you could find maggots.
“It was pretty gnarly,” Mitchell says. “I ended up having a bit of a breakdown just from being overwhelmed with it all.”
He was later thrown out of the abandoned property by the police and ended up spending a few weeks in his car or on friends’ couches, “bouncing around other people’s places … staying wherever I could”.
It’s a lifestyle that seriously hinders students from reaching their potential.
Jenny Smith, chair of Homelessness Australia said: “Hopping from couch to couch or living in severely overcrowded apartments without any privacy or space to study and socialise is harmful and makes it impossible to achieve your full potential.”
“Their homelessness is so often hidden from view but is every bit as damaging.”