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Among Australians seeking assistance for homelessness, 50% are aged under 25, according to a new report, released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Specialist Homelessness Services Collection: first results, is the first report to provide information on homelessness using a new data collection. This collection aims to provide a clearer picture of homelessness based on people’s experiences, rather than the number of services provided, and for the first time counts children as individual clients.

The report, which presents results from July to September 2011, shows that over 90,000 clients were assisted by specialist homelessness agencies in that quarter. As further data are reported by specialist homelessness agencies in subsequent quarters a better picture of numbers of people assisted will emerge.

‘Of these clients, 18% were aged under 10 and 50% were aged under 25,’ said AIHW spokesperson Geoff Neideck.

‘At least one-third of people presenting to specialist homelessness agencies were with children or were children themselves, while the remaining two-thirds presented alone.’

Among those seeking assistance for homelessness, 59% were female and 41% were male.

Domestic and family violence was the most common reason for seeking assistance overall, and the most common reason for seeking assistance among females. Among males the most common reason for seeking assistance was ‘housing crisis’.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were significantly over-represented among clients, with 19% of all clients being of Indigenous origin.

In 31% of support periods, clients had lived in short-term or emergency accommodation in the month before presenting for support, and 19% had ‘slept rough’.

The most commonly identified service need for clients was for ‘advice/information’, followed by ‘other basic assistance’ and ‘advocacy/liaison on behalf of client’.

‘Over the quarter, we saw some modest improvements in the housing situations of clients as a whole,’ Mr Neideck said.

‘For example, for those support periods that were closed over the quarter, there was a 3% drop in the number of clients who had no dwelling, were living in a car or in an improvised dwelling.

‘There was also an increase in the proportion of clients renting in social housing—from 14% at the beginning of support to 17% at the end of support.’

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

Canberra, 2 April 2012

Further information: Mr Geoff Neideck, AIHW, tel. (02) 6244 1163, mob. 0439 878 933

Full report: Specialist Homelessness Services Collection: first results