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An estimated 157,200 people received accommodation or other support services for the homeless in 2004-05 through the Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP) -the major government response to homelessness in Australia - and of these 56,800 were children, according to a series of reports released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).
Very young children had the highest rate of use with one in every 51 children aged 0-4 years accompanying a parent or guardian to a SAAP agency at some time during 2004-05.
Older teens (18-19 year olds) also had a relatively high usage rate, with one in every 70 people in this age group using a SAAP service during 2004-05. The rate was higher for teenage girls than boys, with one in every 56 females aged 18-19 years accessing services.
While domestic violence (20%), financial difficulty (12%), and usual accommodation being unavailable (11%) were the most common reasons given for seeking support overall, the reasons for seeking assistance varied according to age and gender.
Women aged 25 years and over without children, and women with children, cited domestic violence as their main reason for seeking assistance in 40% and 49% of support periods respectively.
Women aged under 25 years without children most often reported family or relationship breakdown (20%) followed by their usual accommodation being unavailable (13%) as their main reasons for seeking assistance.
Men in this age group most often cited their usual accommodation being unavailable (19%) followed by relationship or family breakdown or ending of previous accommodation (both 15%) as their main reasons for seeking support.
Males aged 25 years and over most commonly cited financial difficulty (17%), followed by drug, alcohol or substance abuse (14%).
For those who were able to access SAAP assistance, the majority of their expressed needs were met, with agencies directly providing services for 90% of requests and referring clients to other organisations to meet a further 6% of requests.
'Provision of services was particularly high for basic support such as meals and shower facilities, (98%), and general support and advocacy services, (96%),' said Felicity Murdoch of the AIHW's Supported Accommodation and Crisis Services Unit.
Specialist services such as interpreter services, pregnancy support, or psychiatric services, were provided directly in 71% of cases and a further 22% were referred.
Indigenous people remain greatly overrepresented in the system, with Indigenous clients accounting for 16% of all SAAP clients compared with only 2% of the Australian population.
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