Homelessness is a complex issue, involving more than just a lack of housing. Factors that may increase a person's risk of becoming or remaining homeless can include:

  • structural factors:
    • poverty
    • unemployment
    • lack of affordable housing
  • personal circumstances:
    • discrimination
    • poor physical or mental health
    • intellectual disability
    • drug and alcohol abuse
    • gambling
    • family and relationship breakdown
    • domestic violence
    • physical and sexual abuse

People experiencing homelessness may access a wide range of general government services, including:

  • general health services
  • drug rehabilitation programs
  • general community services
  • housing assistance 

Many Australians experience events in their life that may place them at risk of homelessness. It is estimated that half (50%) of lower income households experience affordability issues due to rental stress (paying more than 30% of their gross income on housing costs), and around 1 in 6 women have experienced some form of domestic and family violence in their lifetime, putting them at risk of homelessness.

Specialist homelessness agencies vary considerably in size and in the types of assistance they provide. Across Australia, agencies provide services aimed at prevention and early intervention, crisis and post-crisis assistance to support people experiencing or at risk of homelessness. For example, some agencies focus specifically on assisting people experiencing homelessness, while others deliver a broader range of services, including youth intervention services and domestic and family violence services. Assistance ranges from basic, short-term interventions, such as advice and information, through to more specialised, time-intensive services such as financial advice and professional legal services.

The Specialist Homelessness Services Collection commenced in July 2011 and is the main source of current data about these services. Every year the AIHW produces reports on the collection that describe:

  • the people who received assistance from specialist homelessness agencies, the assistance they received, and their changes in housing and other circumstances
  • trends in the characteristics of clients, the services they receive, and their outcomes
  • the people who requested services but were not provided with support at that time.