Supported accommodation program helps thousands, but many turned away

On an average day in 2007-08, over 14,000 homeless people were accommodated through the Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP), according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

'This was around a 4% increase from 2006-07,' said report author Felicity Murdoch.

'Homeless shelters continue to help a lot of people who need accommodation, but not everyone who needs a place is able to get one,' she said.

According to the report, Demand for SAAP accommodation by homeless people 2007-08, on any given day, less than half (41%) of all new requests for immediate accommodation were successful, with about 385 people (or 59%) turned away.

'This is a slight increase from that reported in 2006-07, when 368 people (or 57%) were turned away,' Ms Murdoch said.

The report also showed that some groups find it harder to get accommodation than others.

'Family groups, for example, are more likely to be turned away than single people,' she said.

'One possible reason for this is that, once families do receive accommodation, they tend to stay longer than individuals, which means the accommodation appropriate for families is already in use and therefore unavailable for other families in need,' Ms Murdoch explained.

'But it's not as simple as supply and demand. For example, not all people who are homeless seek government funded crisis accommodation - but they might if the likelihood of getting it was higher,' she said.

External factors, such as the ability to access public housing, can also influence how long people stay in crisis accommodation before moving on.

The Supported Accommodation Assistance Program, which is now incorporated into the National Affordable Housing Agreement, is jointly funded by the Australian Government and the state and territory governments.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare is the lead agency in producing SAAP statistical reports. In addition to collating and analysing standard administrative data, the Institute analyses surveys of people turned away from SAAP-funded accommodation.

Thursday 28 May 2009

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

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