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Building the disaster resilience of Australia’s homeless

Published:06 May 2016

CQUni's Dr Danielle Every pictured above the online survey promotional graphic.

Researchers are for the first time exploring how people experiencing homelessness in Australia can be better prepared for extreme weather and natural disasters.

Preparations for extreme weather, floods, bushfires and earthquakes tend to assume that people affected have housing.

However, CQUniversity Adelaide researcher Dr Danielle Every says that an emerging body of US research indicates that, in extreme weather and natural disasters, people experiencing homelessness have high fatality rates, are less likely to be notified and take longer to recover.

Dr Every, a Senior Research Fellow at CQUni’s Appleton Institute, is partnering with the Australian Red Cross to expand her own pilot research within South Australia.

She will be using a national survey of homelessness service providers and three location-based case studies (involving emergency services, homelessness services and people experiencing homelessness) where people have recently been affected by a natural disaster or extreme weather.

Adults who work or volunteer in the housing or homelessness sector are encouraged to become involved with the survey. Queries can be directed to Dr Every on d.every@cqu.edu.au .

“We are interested in how experiencing homelessness affects people’s perception of, preparation for and response to natural hazards, and how natural hazards affect the well-being of homeless individuals and families,” Dr Every says.

“We seek to find out how their vulnerability and resilience is shaped by different experiences of homelessness - such as rough sleeping, couch-surfing, vulnerable renting – across various social conditions.

“It’s important to track how service providers currently work with clients to enhance their risk perception, preparedness and response, and to find the key content and delivery elements of an effective disaster resilience training education for the homeless community.”

Dr Every says the research aims to provide an evidence-based platform for advocacy on behalf of people experiencing homelessness, and for Red Cross development of an education program specifically for the homeless community.