Migrants from culturally and linguistically diverse (CaLD) backgrounds are vulnerable for health disparities relating to insecure housing and homelessness. Understanding the intersections between health, housing and migration is critical to reducing these health inequities. This research project will examine public health strategies to address housing insecurity and health outcomes for migrants from CaLD backgrounds in Western Australia (WA).
Population mobility and migration increase vulnerability for housing insecurity and a range of communicable and non-communicable health issues. Influencing factors include level of control over travel, transnational health practices, individual and organisational health literacy, cultural and linguistic diversity, migration and health policy, social networks, and support in country of origin and destination. For example, asylum seekers and refugees are more likely to experience post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and other mental health issues increasing the risk of homelessness. This may be due to settlement processes, loss of connection with country of origin and stress associated with seeking asylum. In turn, people who experience homelessness or housing stress are often at risk of a range of mental and physical health issues, social exclusion, and discrimination.
Data show that housing insecurity is a concern for migrants from CaLD backgrounds in Australia. On census night in 2016, 116,000 people experienced homelessness in Australia, of which 9,000 were reported in WA. Of those born overseas or who had arrived in Australia within the past five years, 15% were estimated to be homeless. Although Australia is ranked third in the world for its resettlement commitments, 74% of those born overseas/arrived in Australia within five years were living in severely crowded dwellings and 13% were living in boarding houses. WA has the highest proportion of people born overseas in Australia (32%) and on census night in 2016, 12.7% of people who accessed homelessness services were born overseas.
Despite these data, relatively little is known about the links between migration, health and housing in Australia. The Journey to Home Project (https://www.journeytohomeproject.org/) aimed to address this gap by informing approaches to improve access to secure housing and mental health outcomes for migrants from CaLD backgrounds. Preliminary findings from the Project support culturally tailored housing interventions but reveal existing data are not fit for purpose. The research reinforces perspectives that migrants from CaLD backgrounds have complex needs beyond housing with findings suggesting a need for:
- a more harmonised and culturally responsive service system;
- training to respond to family and domestic violence, build cultural competence of services and trauma-informed service provision;
- improvements in culturally responsive housing and accommodation options;
- addressing language barriers and improving access to interpreters;
- outreach processes to communicate with migrants from CaLD backgrounds;
- improved communication about the rights, services and supports available to migrants from CaLD backgrounds; and
- greater resourcing of non-government organisations to ensure sustainable service provision.
Migrants from CaLD backgrounds are absent in many health and social welfare policies and strategies in Australia. Limited research has been conducted to develop and test specific public health intervention approaches to address issues related to migration, housing and health. This project will build on existing Journey to Home Project results by co-producing and piloting a culturally appropriate migration, housing and health intervention using participatory action research principles. Potential intervention strategies may include working with end-users to assess and enhance the multicultural readiness of housing and social services providers; enhancing the capacity of migrants from CaLD backgrounds to participate in solution generation related to housing and health outcomes; and/or testing strengths-focused behavioural and socio-ecological health promotion strategies to improve service delivery to migrants from CaLD backgrounds.
Outcomes will contribute to policy, including the WA Health Promotion Strategic Framework and the Mental Health Promotion, Mental Illness, and Alcohol and Other Drugs Prevention Plan. Significantly, findings will be used in relation to the Strategy to End Homelessness and WA’s 10 Year Strategy on Homelessness 2020-2030 given their paucity of information and action relating to migration and cultural and linguistic diversity.