Making Connections: Young People, Homelessness and Digital Access in the City

Developing solutions and partnerships with young people experiencing, or at risk of, homelessness, to support and enhance their digital access.

Hands of young people showing them holding their phones

'If it wasn't for my phone I'd be sleeping in my car, with the phone I can get into a refuge and have a roof over my head at least.'

– Study participant

'It's essential to be connected when experiencing, or at risk of, homelessness, but mobiles and internet access don't come cheap.'

– Dr Justine Humphry, lead researcher on a new project on how to improve digital access and connectivity within city centres.

Project Overview

Research shows a clear need for different forms of digital access for people experiencing, or at risk of, homelessness in central city areas. There is strong demand for public, safe, affordable spaces to go online and charge phones, and a need for local, real time information on relevant services such as food vans, accommodation support, public toilets and showers (Humphry, 2014).

'Making Connections' is a Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre (opens in a new window)funded research project, led by Dr Justine Humphry, studying the information and communication needs of young people experiencing, or at risk of, homelessness. The research looks to develop solutions and partnerships, working with young people to support and enhance their access to, and use of, digital technology—including mobile phones, internet and other digital services.

Working with young people recruited from a range of youth-based homelessness services in and around the central districts of Sydney and Parramatta, the project will involve a series of participatory innovation workshops. The first of these workshops, to be held in November 2015, will focus on the design of projects to address digital access gaps and improve access to and connectivity with support services and social networks. The second, to be held in February 2016, will see young people work with relevant stakeholders—such as local government, businesses, charities, telecommunication companies, support services and libraries—to develop ways to financially support and implement these projects.

Key findings of 2014 research on homeless families, adults and young people showed:

  • 95 per cent own a mobile 
  • 77 per cent have a smartphone 
  • 47 per cent use the internet to look for a job 
  • 82 per cent use pre-paid mobile plans 
  • 50 per cent use free public Wi-Fi to keep costs down, while 66 per cent use Facebook, Instant Messenger (45 per cent) or Skype (30 per cent) 
  • 57 per cent find it difficult to fund their mobile phone usage 
  • 32 per cent report difficulty charging their phone and many report lack of phone credit and phone loss.

Source: Homeless and Connected (opens in a new window)(ACCAN)

Final Report

Humphry, J & Pihl, K 2016, Making Connections: Young People, Homelessness and Digital Access in the City (opens in a new window), Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre, Melbourne. 


Keep up-to-date with the project by joining the Making Connections mailing list (opens in a new window).

For further information on this project please contact Dr Justine Humphry.

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