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Although around 14,000 people with immediate housing needs were able to be accommodated through the Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP) on an average day in 2006-07, more than 350, over half of them under the age of 20, were turned away, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

'While homeless shelters help large numbers of people who need a place to stay each day, not everyone who needs a place is able to get one', said Felicity Murdoch of the Institute's Homelessness and Housing Analysis Unit.

'To give some perspective, the 368 people who couldn't be accommodated represent 3% of the total expressed demand for SAAP accommodation on an average day', she said.

'But there is also the reality that on any given day only 43% of all new requests for accommodation were successful.'

The report, Demand for SAAP accommodation by homeless people 2006-07: summary, shows that some groups have more difficulty in getting a place to stay than others.

Family groups, for example, were more likely to be turned away than single people.

'One of the possible reasons for this is that once families do receive accommodation, they tend to stay longer than individuals, which means the accommodation that is appropriate for families is in use and therefore unavailable for other families in need,' Ms Murdoch said.

'The evidence we have on patterns of supply and demand for different groups suggests that there are more complex factors affecting access to accommodation.'

'For example, the length of time people stay once accommodated has an impact, as does the tendency for people to give up quickly if unsuccessful in obtaining accommodation. And not all people who are homeless seek SAAP accommodation - but they might if the likelihood of getting accommodation was higher.'

The Supported Accommodation Assistance Program is a major part of the Australian Government's overall response to homelessness, and represents a broader social safety net designed to help people in crisis.

Every year, in addition to gathering data on other aspects of its operations, the Supported Accommodation Assistance Program conducts surveys of people turned away from SAAP-funded accommodation. These survey results are analysed by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, which is the lead agency in producing SAAP statistical reports.

Friday 10 October 2008

Further information: Felicity Murdoch, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1018; mob. 0407 915 851.

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, AIHW, tel. 61 2 6244 1032.

Availability: Check the AIHW Publications Catalogue for the availability of Demand for SAAP accommodation by homeless people 2006-07 and Demand for SAAP accommodation by homeless people 2006-07: summary.