A study of homelessness and gambling in the Northern Rivers region, New South Wales, Australia: perspectives of people experiencing homelessness and gambling, and the service providers supporting them
Holdsworth, L & Tiyce, M 2012, A study of homelessness and gambling in the Northern Rivers region, New South Wales, Australia: perspectives of people experiencing homelessness and gambling, and the service providers supporting them, Centre for Gambling Education and Research (CGER), School of Tourism and Hospitality Management, Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW.
While gambling problems and housing problems are both serious concerns, there have been relatively few studies that have explored the relationship between these problems. Yet, this is an important topic to research. Some people experiencing homelessness gamble and while prevalence is uncertain, anecdotally it has been estimated that between 15 per cent and 20 per cent of the homeless population may have gambling problems (Hoare, 2008). People who are homeless and who gamble often also experience high rates of co-occurring, complex issues which can include health and mental health issues, financial and legal problems, relationship breakdown, domestic violence, unemployment, social exclusion, and alcohol and substance misuse (Cultural Perspectives, 2005; Mental Health Council of Australia [MHCA], 2009; Taylor & Sharpe, 2008). However, understanding and untangling these complex issues can be difficult.
This report focuses on the findings of a qualitative study that explored the experiences and perspectives of people experiencing homelessness and gambling, and the service providers that support them. The study took place in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales [NSW], Australia, in 2011. In-depth interviews were conducted with 17 participants who were homeless and gambled, and 18 housing, gambling and related service providers.
Key themes were:
- Most participants recognised a relationship between homelessness and gambling;
- The complex interplay of associated issues makes assisting people experiencing homelessness and gambling challenging;
- Gambling problems are often hidden due to stigma and shame;
- People experiencing homelessness and gambling are frequently socially excluded from their communities and society in general.
Service providers identified the need for:
- More affordable housing;
- Early intervention strategies;
- Integrated services;
- Availability of information;
- Effective community awareness campaigns;
- Improved government funding for housing and services.
More research into homelessness and gambling is needed across a wide range of regions. Greater understanding of the complex and often compounding issues related to homelessness and gambling will enhance understanding and further assist support services and governments to extend policy and strategies to address these issues in an effective way.