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On average, 18,574 people were accommodated by specialist homelessness agencies on any given night from October to December 2011, according to the latest information on homelessness services released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

‘This includes people who were accommodated in crisis or emergency accommodation, as well as medium-term and long-term accommodation provided to people who were homeless or at risk of homelessness when they sought assistance,’ said AIHW spokesperson Geoff Neideck.

‘Overall, over 1,700,000 accommodation nights were provided to clients of specialist homelessness agencies in the December quarter 2011.’

The report, which presents information on all homelessness services from October to December 2011, shows that an estimated 98,742 clients were assisted by specialist homelessness agencies in the quarter.

The national rate of Australians accessing homelessness services in the December quarter was 44 in every 10,000 people.

Overall, 52% of clients helped by specialist homelessness agencies were categorised as homeless at the beginning of their support period. That is, they were living in a caravan, tent, car, emergency accommodation or an improvised dwelling, were living on the street, or were couch surfing.

The remaining 48% were ‘at risk of homelessness’ at the beginning of their support period. Around one-third (34%) of these ‘at risk’ clients had been homelessness in the previous year.

Over one-third of all support periods involved providing accommodation to clients. The average length of accommodation provided was 66 nights.

Similar to the September quarter 2011, 18% of clients were aged under 10 and just under half of all clients (48%) were aged under 25. Among those who received assistance, 59% were female and 41% were male. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people represented 21% of clients.

Most people (69%) presented alone to specialist homelessness agencies, with the remainder presenting in groups, such as families with children.

Domestic and family violence was the most common reason for seeking assistance (25%). It was also the most common reason reported by females (34%), while for male clients the most common reasons were financial difficulties and housing crisis (both reasons reported by 18% of male clients).

There were slightly fewer clients living without shelter, or in inadequate dwellings, at the end of support (11% of closed support periods, compared with 14% at the beginning of these support periods).

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, 4 July 2012

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

Full report: Specialist Homelessness Services Collection: December quarter 2011