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The number of people receiving assistance from specialist homelessness agencies has increased, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Specialist homelessness services: 2012-13, shows that about 244,000 Australians accessed specialist homelessness services in 2012-13-a 3% rise since 2011-12.

More than half of all these clients were at risk of homelessness (54%) when they first began receiving support. Of the remaining 46% who were already homeless, 22% had no shelter or were staying in improvised dwellings and 35% were in short-term accommodation.

'Agencies were able to help many clients find more stable housing and assist other clients to remain in accommodation that they were at risk of losing,' said AIHW spokesperson Geoff Neideck.

'Emergency accommodation was provided to 64,000 clients in 2012-13.  Moving into public or community housing continued to be an important outcome for clients where places were available. The proportion of clients in public or community housing rose from 15% at the start of support to 21% at the end of support,' Mr Neideck said.

Most clients who received assistance were female (59%) reflecting the high numbers of females seeking assistance due to domestic violence. Almost 49,000 adult females were assisted as a result of domestic violence, with these cases involving around 24,000 children. Males were more likely than females to be homeless when they first received support.

'Indigenous Australians continue to be over-represented. Although only making up 3% of the total Australian population, Indigenous people represented 22% of specialist homelessness services clients in 2010-13,' Mr Neideck said.

'One way agencies assist clients is by helping them secure a source of income so they can meet housing costs.'

The proportion of clients who had no income was reduced from 17% at the beginning of support to 10% at the end of support.

Among clients who required employment assistance, the proportion employed at the end of support rose from 12% to 20%.

The report also shows an increase in older people seeking support. 

Although representing a small proportion of overall clients, the proportion of clients 55 years and over seeking support from specialist homelessness agencies rose by 14%between 2011-12 and 2012-13.

The estimated average number of unmet requests for assistance each day rose from 385 to 417 between 2011-12 and 2012-13.

'However, the good news is that there has been a drop in the proportion of clients experiencing repeat periods of homelessness,' Mr Neideck 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, 17 December 2013

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

Full publication: Specialist homelessness services: 2012-13