Homelessness agencies struggle to meet new accommodation requests

On a typical day in Australia, 59% of people who make a new request for immediate accommodation from government-funded specialist homelessness agencies are turned away, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

The report, People turned away from government funded specialist homelessness accommodation 2010-11, provides information on the requests for homelessness accommodation that cannot be met—those people who are considered to have been ‘turned away’.

It shows that government-funded specialist homelessness agencies were operating to capacity and unable to fully meet the demand for accommodation in 2010-11.

‘While the report shows that 59% of people needing new and immediate accommodation were turned away, these people account for a relatively small proportion of the total demand for accommodation on an average day,’ said AIHW spokesperson Alison Verhoeven.

‘If you consider the total demand for accommodation to be new requests plus those already in emergency and crisis accommodation (including those who are continuing their accommodation from a previous day) then new requests made up only 4% of the total demand and 2% of these were turned away.’

Some groups, such as families, experience more difficulty in obtaining accommodation than others. Couples with children were most likely to be turned away, followed by individuals with children and couples without children.

Over half of those turned away were aged under 20 (57%) and the majority (60%) of all people turned away were female. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were over-represented among those turned away from specialist homelessness agencies.

A lack of accommodation was the main reason people were turned away (85%). The remaining unmet requests were for other reasons, including cases when the agency was not able to provide the type of accommodation requested.

‘For instance, a person may be seeking long term or independent accommodation, but the agency is only able to offer them refuge or dormitory-style crisis accommodation,’ Ms Verhoeven said.

Further information on homelessness in Australia is available in the AIHW’s major report Australia’s welfare 2011, released in November.

This is the final report to be sourced from the Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP) National Data Collection (NDC). Data on the people using specialist homelessness services will in future be reported from the new Specialist Homelessness Services (SHS) collection.

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

Canberra, 15 December 2011

Further information: Ms Alison Verhoeven AIHW, tel. (02) 6244 1089, mob. 0403 282 501

 For media copies of the report: Publications Officer 02 6244 1032

Publications Officer 02 6244 1032