New report highlights help provided by Specialist Homelessness Services in communities across Australia

More than 290,000 Australians were assisted by government-funded Specialist Homelessness Services during 2019–20, according to a new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The latest Specialist Homelessness Services annual report covers the 2019–20 period, including months before and during the COVID-19 pandemic and is accompanied by updated Specialist Homelessness Services Collection Data Cubes with information on clients assisted in states and territories.

‘Government-funded Specialist Homelessness Services (SHS) assist Australians who are experiencing homelessness—or at risk of becoming homeless—with services such as advice, counselling, professional legal services, meals and accommodation, said AIHW spokesperson Dr. Gabrielle Phillips.

‘Between 2015–16 and 2019–20, the number of clients helped by specialist homelessness agencies increased by an average of 1.0% per year from 279,200 to 290,500 people. ‘In 2019–20, about 114,000 clients were homeless when they first presented to services seeking help and 152,300 were at risk of homelessness.’

Of the 290,000 clients who were assisted in 2019–20, 60% (174,500) were female and 29% (85,000) were aged under 18 years.

About 119,000 clients assisted by Specialist Homelessness Services had experienced family and domestic violence, up from 116,000 clients in 2018–19. Ninety per cent of adult clients who had experienced family and domestic violence were female and over half (51%) of clients aged under 18 years had experienced family and domestic violence.

About 88,300 clients accessing services in 2019–20 reported having a current mental health issue which was almost 1 in 3 of all SHS clients (30%).

‘People with current mental health issues is one of the fastest growing client groups, increasing by 22% since 2015–16,’ Dr. Phillips said.

‘Various factors, including increased identification, community awareness and reduced stigma, may have had an impact on the increase in self-identification and reporting of mental illness among Specialist Homelessness Services clients.’

About $68.7 million in financial assistance was provided to clients in 2019–20, up from $61.1 million in 2018–19. This included $32.3 million used to help clients establish or maintain existing tenancies and $21.9 million to provide short-term or emergency accommodation, some of which was related to COVID-19 responses.

Clients supported each month can be found in our SHS monthly data product; the latest release includes preliminary data for the June–September 2020 time period.

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