More Australians use services for the homeless

The number of Australians who accessed the Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP) in 2002-03 has increased from 83,200 to 97,600 annually in the seven years since 1996-97, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

Combined government funding in 2002-03 for the program was $310 million. The 1,282 SAAP agencies across Australia received a total of $297 million, up 30% in real terms since 1996-97.

The Commonwealth-State/Territory governments' SAAP program provides support and accommodation for people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

Head of the SAAP National Data Collection Agency at the AIHW, Justin Griffin, said that in addition to the 97,600 clients, 53,800 accompanying children used the program during 2002-03.

The AIHW report, Homeless people in SAAP, also shows that almost 65,000 people under the age of 18 received some form of support or accommodation from the program.

Almost 2% of all young Australian women aged 18-19 years received some form of assistance from the program during the last financial year. Overall, more female clients (58%) than male clients (42%) used the Program. The average age of female clients was 30 years, while for men it was 33 years. Just under 90% of accompanying children were aged 12 years or under.

Indigenous Australians comprised 18% of SAAP clients compared with their representation in the Australian population of less than 2%.

The main reasons overall for seeking assistance were domestic violence (22% of all support periods), eviction or previous accommodation ended (11%), usual accommodation was unavailable (11%), or relationship breakdown (11%).

The types of support most often provided by SAAP agencies were housing services/accommodation, general support or advocacy (including living skills, assistance with legal issues, advice/information, retrieval of belongings, liaison on behalf of client), and basic support services such as meals, showers, laundry facilities, recreation, and transport.

Clients who were accommodated for longer periods in SAAP were more likely to move into independent housing after support.

Employment levels for clients who requested job assistance from SAAP agencies more than doubled from around 9% before support to 19% after support.

18 December 2003

Further information: Mr Justin Griffin, AIHW, 02 6244 1206
Mr Doug Limbrick, Dept of Family and Community Services, 02 6212 9021
For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, tel. 02 6244 1032.