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Being homeless is not a crime.

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Media Release

Senator the Hon Amanda Vanstone

Minister for Justice and Customs

Senator for South Australia



Thursday 23 September 1999


Being homeless is not a crime

The Minister for Justice and Customs, Senator Amanda Vanstone, today released Living Rough , a report on crime and victimisation among homeless young people.

"Homeless young people are frequently portrayed in the media as the perpetrators of crime," Senator Vanstone said. "However, homeless young people are more often victims than they are perpetrators of crime.

"Homeless young people are at greater risk of becoming victims of crime than young people who have a stable and supportive home environment.

"If homeless young people turn to crime it is usually in order to survive. Homeless young people are often involved in crimes such as theft and drug-dealing to earn money.

"Living on the street and involvement in illegal activities like drug dealing and theft as well as involvement in prostitution, make young homeless people vulnerable to being preyed upon by older, hardened criminals.

"The poorest, most marginalised, least educated and most vulnerable members of society are those at greatest risk of homelessness. Low literacy and numeracy skills, drug and alcohol addiction, chronic health problems and mental illness are common amongst homeless people.

"Young people may in fact become homeless because they have been the victims of crimes such as physical or sexual abuse.

"The report finds that there is little evidence of strategies which focus on the needs of homeless young people when they are the victims of crime. Homeless young people are more often seen as the perpetrators of crime.

"Organisations offering services in this field need to recognise that young people can be both a victim and an offender, and they need to provide services which can respond to this complexity.

"There is also a need to give program providers a greater opportunity to learn from each other. The creative and diverse range of models and strategies that have been developed by programs so far is encouraging, but there is a need to ensure that services become more integrated."

Living Rough: Preventing crime and victimisation among homeless young people is the third in a series of crime prevention reports that focus on helping young people and their families. Other reports have focused on adolescents and domestic violence, and young people in public space.

A wide range of non government organisations working with this target group was consulted for the report and their different approaches and strategies were examined.

Copies of the report are available on the press table, Parliament House or at

Minister available through Kevin Donnellan 0419 400 078



jy  1999-09-24  10:27