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Demand for crisis accommodation remains high in Australia, with specialist homelessness agencies providing over 7 million nights of accommodation in 2011-12, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Specialist Homelessness Services 2011-12, shows that almost 230,000 Australians accessed specialist homelessness services, including accommodation, in 2011-12. On average, over 19,000 people were accommodated each night, and those clients who received accommodation were accommodated for an average of 82 nights.

'Sixty per cent of all clients needed accommodation, with 40% needing short-term or emergency accommodation. Thirty-seven per cent of all clients received accommodation at some time in 2011-12,' said AIHW spokesperson Geoff Neideck.

'But specialist homelessness services do more than just provide accommodation. They also provide a range of other services aimed at preventing homelessness occurring. Twenty-eight per cent of all clients received assistance to sustain their tenancy.'

Among all clients, 44% were already homeless when they began receiving support, and 14% of these clients were living without shelter. Fifty-six per cent of all clients were at risk of homelessness when they began receiving support.

'Overall, 52% of clients experienced homelessness at some point during the period they were supported,' Mr Neideck said.

Males who were homeless when they began receiving support were twice as likely to be sleeping without shelter as homeless females (19% and 9% respectively). Roughly equal numbers of males and females were homeless when they began receiving support, but females made up 68% of those at risk of homelessness.

A major cause of homelessness in Australia is domestic violence, with one-third of clients experiencing domestic or family violence. The majority of these clients were female (78%). Around one-fifth of those supported by agencies in relation to domestic and family violence were aged under 10.

Health and medical services were the most needed specialised service required by clients who were homeless. About one-fifth of clients were identified as having a current mental health issue, with most (56%) of these female, and almost half (48%) aged between 25 and 44.

'The good news is that services have been delivered for many clients,' Mr Neideck said.

Overall, 18% of those sleeping rough, 26% of those living in temporary supported accommodation, and 22% of those living in a house or flat (sharing and living without tenure) were assisted into public, community or private housing with improved tenure.

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, 18 December 2012

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

Full report: Specialist Homelessness Services 2011-12