Demand for accommodation by homeless exceeds supply

While homeless shelters help large numbers of people who need a place to stay each day, not everyone who needs a place to stay is able to get one, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP), on an average day in 2005-06, had to turn away about 356 people who were seeking immediate accommodation, around a third of them children. In the majority of cases, this is because of a lack of availability.

'In order to put this in perspective,' says Felicity Murdoch of the AIHW's Supported Accommodation and Crisis Services Unit, 'it is important to include the over 12,000 people who, on an average day, were able to get accommodation through SAAP or were still using the accommodation.

Taking this into account, the 356 people who were unable to be accommodated represent 3% of the demand for SAAP accommodation on an average day.

'In analysing this unmet demand, we found that that the solutions are not necessarily straightforward. While an undersupply is undoubtedly a factor, it is only part of the issue, Ms Murdoch said.

'The patterns of supply and demand for different client groups suggest that there are more complex factors affecting access to SAAP accommodation,' she said.

The report, Demand for SAAP accommodation by homeless people 2005-06: 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 their single counterparts.

'There are several possible reasons for this, among them the fact that, once accommodated, families tend to stay longer than individuals, meaning that much of the available accommodation for families is taken up each day,' she said.

Every year, the Supported Accommodation Assistance Program conducts surveys of people turned away from SAAP-funded accommodation for evaluation purposes. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) analyses these survey results to provide a picture of Australia's major government response to homelessness. Findings are published annually by the AIHW in Demand for SAAP Accommodation by Homeless People report and summary bulletin.

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

19 December 2007

Further information: Ms Felicity Murdoch, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1018 or 0418 271 395.

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