Report on homelessness compares those with and without a disability

The characteristics of and assistance given to homeless people both with and without a disability via the government-funded Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP) is reported in the latest release from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

Homeless SAAP clients with a disability 2002-03, shows that roughly one-quarter of the 97,600 SAAP clients in that year had a disability. These clients were more likely to be male than those not reporting a disability (58% compared with 38%). 'Disability' clients were also older, with an average age of 37 years compared with 30 years.

Clients in the 'disability' group were twice as likely to seek SAAP assistance due to drug, alcohol or substance abuse issues than those without a disability.

Anne Giovanetti from the AIHW said that in meeting the needs of clients with a disability, 92% of 294,100 requests for various service types were met.

'A total of 87% of service requests by disabled clients were able to be provided directly by SAAP agencies, with a further 5% of these clients referred to other organisations,' she said.

'The report also shows SAAP may not always be able to cater for the specialised needs of homeless people with a disability, with specialist services provided in only 69% of requests by the "disability" client group compared with 81% of requests by "non-disability" clients.

'All other services - including counselling and housing or accommodation - were provided in similar proportions across both client groups.'

Generally, housing outcomes for all SAAP clients improved after receiving support. The longer they were supported the more both 'disability' and 'non-disability' client groups reported positive or independent housing outcomes - such as renting independently in the private market or renting public or community housing.

'However, the "disability" client group was consistently less likely to exit to a private rental than the "non-disability" client group regardless of the length of support,' Ms Giovanetti said.

'And they were more likely to be living in a car, tent, park, street or squat both before and after receiving SAAP assistance.'

11 February 2005

Further information: Ms Anne Giovanetti, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1122, or mobile 0407 915 851.

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1032.