It is estimated that about 187,900 people who are homeless, or at risk of becoming homeless, received some form of assistance from the Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP) during 2006-07, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).
'This was a substantial increase in the reported number of people receiving help from SAAP,' said Felicity Murdoch of the Institute's Supported Accommodation and Crisis Services Unit.
The increase reflects the inclusion of new agencies, resulting from growth in the scope of the program. There is also an impact from better reporting practices.
It does not necessarily reflect an increase in the number of homeless people,' she said.
The national report, Homeless people in SAAP: SAAP National Data Collection annual report 2006-07 Australia, shows that the majority of clients supported by SAAP were female (61%).
'Young females, in particular, were likely to become a SAAP client (1 in 51 of 15-19 year olds). However, accompanying children 4 years and under also had a very high rate of use (1 in 42). There were more than 69,000 children using SAAP services in 2006-07 (up from 54,700 in 2005-06). ' Ms Murdoch said.
Most SAAP clients were born in Australia and did not identify as being Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, but Indigenous clients were significantly overrepresented in SAAP.
'Indigenous Australians make up 2% of the general population, but 18% of SAAP clients,' said Ms Murdoch.
The rate of use was particularly high for accompanying Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children (1 in 13) compared with all children (1 in 71).
In the vast majority of cases, agencies were able to directly meet the expressed needs of clients and their accompanying children.
The services that were provided most often were basic support such as meals and shower facilities.
Services that were required but least likely to be provided were specialist services, such as specialist counselling services and health or medical services.
The majority of support periods did not include accommodation.
Most clients had a case management plan in place before the end of their support, and, in 93% of these, all or most of the client's goals were achieved by the end of their support.
Generally, the circumstances of clients improved, particularly for those supported for longer periods and those requesting specific support, such as assistance with housing, employment and income.
The Supported Accommodation Assistance Program is the Government's major response to homelessness and is funded jointly by the Australian and State and Territory Governments.
The national SAAP annual report is accompanied by individual state and territory reports, which cover client outcomes for income, employment, education, and other measures.