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Snapshot: How climate change is impacting homelessness

Often, when we look at the challenges that face our communities we tend to compartmentalise them into separate issues. However, recognising the interconnectedness of issues such as climate change and homelessness can deepen our understanding of social injustice in our community. Being aware of how climate change is impacting factors related to homelessness is important in order to effectively address the reasons why people experience homelessness and prevent the number of people experiencing homelessness from increasing.

A 2019 survey of Australian homeless sector service providers indicates extreme weather as a pathway to homelessness for 16.2% of service users.

The exposure to climate-related health risks is far greater for people experiencing homelessness whether they’re sleeping rough or have inadequate shelter. These risks include extreme heat and cold, air pollution and foodborne/waterborne diseases. Additionally, health and social care service accessibility is a continuing issue people experiencing homelessness face. Accessibility issues exacerbate climate-related health concerns such as cardiovascular and respiratory conditions among people experiencing homelessness.

Climate change compounds economic and social disparities. Climate-related forced migration due to rising sea-levels and extreme weather events contributes to the housing crisis. Extreme weather events affect access to clean water and food security, drastically increasing the cost of living for all Australians. Indeed, the consumer price index (CPI) that measures household inflation rose 7.3% over the past twelve months, the biggest annual increase of the past decade. The significance of statistics like this are often lost when they’re presented as an isolated figure. The following graph provided by the Australian Bureau of Statistics demonstrates the annual percentage change of CPI over the past ten years. The graph clearly visualises just how serious this increase in household inflation is for Australians.

Although climate change has been framed as a major health concern for sometime, it's impact on some of Australia's most vulnerable groups is scarcely discussed as part of the mainstream conversation. It is clear climate change already impacts Australians at risk of/experiencing homelessness, both directly and indirectly.

Interested in reading more about Climate Change and Homelessness?

Quick reading:

Make yourself a cup of tea and settle in:

Campbell, S (2015). Let’s not forget climate change in the food insecurity conversation: Why the homeless are most vulnerable. Health Promotion Journal of Australia, 26(2), 161–162.

Bezgrebelna, M., McKenzie, K., Wells, S., Ravindran, A., Kral, M., Christensen, J., Stergiopoulos, V., et al. (2021). Climate Change, Weather, Housing Precarity, and Homelessness: A Systematic Review of Reviews. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(11), 5812.

Gibson, A (2019). Climate change for individuals experiencing homelessness: recommendations for improving policy, research, and services. Environ Justice, 12: pp. 159-163.

Kidd, S. A., Hajat, S., Bezgrebelna, M., McKenzie, K., & Climate-Homelessness Working Group (2021). The climate change-homelessness nexus. Lancet (London, England), 397(10286), 1693–1694.

Kidd, S.A., Greco, S. & McKenzie, K (2021). Global Climate Implications for Homelessness: A Scoping Review. J Urban Health 98, 385–393.

McMichael, C (2020). Human mobility, climate change, and health: unpacking the connections. Lancet Planet Health, 4: pp. e217-e218.


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