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More than 157,000 people used specialist homelessness services in the six months from July to December 2012, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Specialist homelessness services: July-December 2012, shows that almost half (47%) were already homeless when they began receiving support, and over a fifth (22%) were sleeping without shelter or in an improvised or inadequate dwelling.

'Females were more likely to receive specialist homelessness services than males, with females representing 58% of all clients,' said AIHW spokesperson Deborah Foulcher.

'But homeless males were more likely than homeless females to be sleeping rough.' 

Twenty seven per cent of homeless males were sleeping rough compared to 16% of females. 

Women aged 18-44 represented 60% of females seeking assistance and 35% of clients overall.

The most common reason for seeking assistance was domestic and family violence, reported by 32% of females and a quarter of clients overall.

'Financial difficulties' was the second most common reason for seeking assistance-and was more commonly reported among males (17% of males compared with 14% of females)

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continued to be over-represented as clients of homelessness services.

'Almost one-quarter of clients identified themselves as being of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin, compared to their 3% representation in the total population,' Ms Foulcher said.

Overall, more than 3.6 million nights of accommodation were provided by specialist homelessness agencies over the period, and almost $12 million in financial assistance was provided to clients.

In addition to clients who were already homeless, many people who were at risk of becoming homeless were assisted.

'Of clients who were at risk of homelessness when they began receiving support, 86% were not homeless at the end of their support, 4% were in an institutional setting and 10% were homeless at the end of support,' Ms Foulcher said.

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, 28 June 2013

Further information: Deborah Foulcher, AIHW, tel. (02) 6249 5083, mob. 0407 915 851

Full publication: Specialist homelessness services: July-December 2012