270,000 Australians helped by homelessness services in 2021–22

More than 270,000 Australians who were homeless, or at risk of homelessness, were helped by government-funded specialist homelessness services (SHS) in 2021–22, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

Clients assisted by SHS agencies in 2021–22 included 76,000 children and young people aged under 18 years, 25,300 people aged 55 and over, 108,000 people who had experienced family and domestic violence and 85,000 people with a current mental health issue.

The Specialist homelessness services annual report 2021–22, contains information collected by SHS agencies which provide a range of services, such as prevention and early intervention, accommodation, advice and information, meals and shower or laundry facilities.

‘People experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness are among Australia’s most socially and economically disadvantaged. About 1.5 million people have been supported by SHS agencies since 2011, with an annual average increase of 1.4% since 2011–12,’ said AIHW spokesperson Dr. Gabrielle Phillips (PhD).

‘In 2021–22, about 75,000 (44%) of clients were known to be homeless when they started receiving support. When support ended, this has been reduced to 57,500 (34%) known to be homeless. Around 85% (83,100) of clients at risk of homelessness avoided it.’

More than 35,000 clients had been homeless for more than 7 months over a 24-month period, which is an indicator of persistent homelessness – 5,700 more than in 2018–19.

More than 16,000 clients returned to homelessness after a period of more secure housing – 700 fewer than in 2018–19.

SHS agencies provided $104 million in financial assistance to clients in 2021–22.

The majority of SHS clients were female (60% or around 164,400 clients) and the number of females presenting homeless (58,400) was higher than the number of males (51,800). Female clients were also more likely than male clients to be at risk of homelessness when they first presented to a service (91,600 females, compared to 48,500 males).

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continued to be over-represented among SHS clients with more than one-quarter of clients (28% or almost 72,900) who provided information on their Indigenous status identifying as being of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin. Nationally, this equated to 798.7 Indigenous clients per 10,000 Indigenous population compared with 79.0 for non-Indigenous clients.

Young people aged 15–24 presenting alone (39,300 clients) were the fourth largest SHS client group in 2021–22, making up around 14% of all SHS clients. The main reasons for seeking assistance among young people presenting alone were: housing crisis (7,200 clients), family and domestic violence (6,200 clients) and relationship/family breakdown (4,700 clients).  


For the purposes of the AIHW’s Specialist homelessness services collection, a person is defined as ‘homeless’ if they are living in non-conventional accommodation or sleeping rough, or in short-term accommodation such as couch surfing or in emergency accommodation due to a lack of other options.  

The report is accompanied by state and territory factsheets.

Data on the SHS services provided in each calendar month is released quarterly

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