1.2 million Australians helped by homelessness services since 2011

Specialist homelessness services (SHS) supported almost 300,000 people in 2018–19, according to a new report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The Specialist Homelessness Services annual report 2018­­–19 found that 1.2 million people who were homeless, or at risk of becoming homeless, were assisted by agencies since the Specialist Homelessness Services Collection was established in 2011.

‘More than 290,000 people received support from SHS agencies in 2018–19—about the same as 2017–18,’ said AIHW spokesperson Dr. Gabrielle Phillips.

‘SHS agencies deliver a range of services from basic, short-term interventions such as advice and meals, through to more intensive support, such as accommodation, financial advice, counselling and professional legal services.’

Almost 6 in 10 (58%) clients who received assistance were housed but at risk of becoming homeless when they started support.

Most people assisted by specialist homelessness agencies in 2018–19 were female (60%), 3 in 10 were aged under 18 (30%) and 1 in 6 were children under the age of 10 (17%).

In 2018–19, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continued to be over-represented among SHS clients, with a quarter (26%) identifying as Indigenous (compared with 3.2% of the Australian population). Since the collection began in 2011–12, over 240,000 Indigenous clients have been supported by SHS agencies.

Around 3 in 10 clients of homelessness services said family and domestic violence was their main reason for seeking support, while about 1 in 5 identified housing crisis (such as eviction) as their main reason.

‘About 8.4% (24,400) of people who sought help from SHS agencies in 2018–19 were “rough sleepers” – often the most visible population experiencing homelessness,’ Dr. Phillips said.

‘Over 1 in 5 rough sleepers (22%) were sleeping in a car and almost half (46%) were sleeping either on the street, in a park, out in the open or in improvised dwellings.’

After receiving assistance, around 9 in 10 clients who were at risk of homelessness maintained housing. Of those clients who were homeless, around 4 in 10 were assisted by agencies into housing.

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