Summary

1 Definition of homelessness

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) uses the cultural definition of homelessness to enumerate the homeless population on census night (Chamberlain and MacKenzie 1992). This definition distinguishes between people in primary, secondary and tertiary homelessness.

Primary homelessness describes the situation of all people without conventional accommodation, such as people living on the streets, sleeping in parks, squatting in derelict buildings, living in improvised dwellings (such as sheds, garages or cabins), and using cars or railway carriages for temporary shelter.

Secondary homelessness describes the situation of people who move frequently from one form of temporary shelter to another. On census night, all people staying in emergency or transitional accommodation provided under the Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP) are considered part of this category. Secondary homelessness also includes people residing temporarily with other households because they have no accommodation of their own, and people staying in boarding houses on a short-term basis, operationally defined as 12 weeks or less.

Tertiary homelessness describes the situation of people who live in boarding houses on a medium to long-term basis, operationally defined as 13 weeks or longer. Residents of private boarding houses are homeless because their accommodation does not have the characteristics identified in the minimum community standard (Chamberlain and MacKenzie 1992): they do not have a separate bedroom and living room; they do not have kitchen and bathroom facilities of their own; their accommodation is not self-contained; and they do not have security of tenure provided by a lease.

2 Overcounting and undercounting

Chapter 2 summarises how the national homeless count enumerated the homeless population using census and other data sets. It contains a discussion of how there can be both overcounting and undercounting of homeless people. Undercounting is most likely in the census category 'improvised homes, tents and sleepers out', and overcounting is more likely in boarding houses because of misclassification.

The problem of establishing reliable figures is compounded by the fact that the homeless population changes over time. There will always be people who are entering and leaving homelessness, as well as people moving between different locations. The challenge is to identify patterns in the population data that might inform the policy process.

3 Accomodation on census night

The homeless population in South Australia was distributed differently from the national homeless population (Table 1). Nationally, 20 per cent of the homeless were in boarding houses on census night, whereas the comparable figure in South Australia was 17 per cent. Across Australia, 19 per cent of the homeless were in SAAP accommodation, but in South Australia the figure was 26 per cent. Forty-six per cent of the homeless in South Australia were staying with other households, compared with 45 per cent nationally. South Australia had fewer people in improvised dwellings, tents or sleepers out (11 per cent compared with 16 per cent nationally).

The census was carried out in August, when people sleeping rough hide away to escape the cold, so there could have been undercounting in this category.

Table 1: Persons in different sectors of the homeless population

  Australia
N
Australia
%
South Australia
N
South Australia
%
Boarding houses 21 596 20 1369 17
SAAP accommodation 19 849 19 2111 26
Friends and relatives 46 856 45 3634 46
Improvised dwellings, sleepers out 16 375 16 848 11
  104 676 100 7962 100

Source: Census of Population and Housing 2006, SAAP Client Collection 2006, National Census of Homeless School Students 2006.

4 Age distribution

The age profile of the homeless population in South Australia was significantly younger than the age profile of the national population (Table
2). Sixty-six per cent of the homeless in South Australia were aged 34 or younger compared with the national figure of 58 per cent. One-quarter (27 per cent) of the homeless in South Australia were teenagers aged 12 to 18 (mainly on their own). Fifteen per cent of the homeless in South Australia were children under 12 who were with one or both parents. Another 11 per cent were young adults aged 19 to 24, and 13 per cent were adults aged 25 to 34.

Altogether, 34 per cent of the homeless in South Australia were aged 35 or older, compared with the national figure of 42 per cent.

Table 2: Age distribution of homeless population

  Australia
N
Australia
%
  South Australia
N
South Australia
%
 
Under 12 12 133 12   1180 15  
12–18 21 940 21   2129 27  
19–24 10 504 10 58 863 11 66
25–34 15 804 15   1018 13  
35–44 13 981 13   981 12  
45–54 12 206 12 42 748 9 34
55–64 10 708 10   613 8  
65 or older 7400 7   430 5  
  104 676 100   7962 100  

Source: Census of Population and Housing 2006, SAAP Client Collection 2006, National Census of Homeless School Students 2006.

5 Males and females

In 2006, men outnumbered women in the national homeless population 56 to 44 per cent (Table 3), and in South Australia men outnumbered women 54 to 46 per cent. In South Australia, there were more females in the 12-to- 18 age group (54 to 46 per cent) and in the 19-to-24 age cohort (52 to 48 per cent). From age 35 onwards, men typically outnumbered women, about 63 to 37 per cent.

Table 3: Percentage of males and females by age group

Australia
  Under 12 12–18 19–24 25–34 35–44 45–54 55–64 65+ All
  % % % % % % % % %
Male 52 46 53 57 63 64 61 64 56
Female 48 54 47 43 37 36 39 36 44
  100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100

 

South Australia
  Under 12 % 12–18 % 19–24 % 25–34 % 35–44 % 45–54 % 55–64 % 65+ % All
Male 53 46 48 56 64 64 62 61 54
Female 47 54 52 44 36 36 38 39 46
  100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100

Source: Census of Population and Housing 2006, SAAP Client Collection 2006, National Census of Homeless School Students 2006.

6 Indigenous and non-Indigenous

In South Australia, 1.8 per cent of people identified as Indigenous at the 2006 Census. Table 4 shows that Indigenous people made up 3.5 per cent of people staying with other households, 5.9 per cent of persons in boarding houses, 19.6 per cent of those in improvised dwellings and 24.1 per cent of people in SAAP. Indigenous people were overrepresented in all sections of the homeless population in South Australia.

Table 4: Percentage of indigenous and non-indigenous people in different sectors of the homeless population, South Australia

  Boarding house (N=1363) % Friends or relatives (N=3634) % SAAP (N=2009) % Improvised dwellings (N=848) % All* (N=7854) %

Non-Indigenous

94.1 96.5 75.9 80.4 89.1

Indigenous

5.9 3.5 24.1 19.6 10.9
  100 100 100 100 100

Source: Census of Population and Housing 2006, SAAP Client Collection 2006, National Census of Homeless School Students 2006.
* Figures have been adjusted for missing data on Indigenous status, except in 108 cases where there was inadequate information to make the adjustment.

7 Adelaide

The statistical division of Adelaide is comprised of four subdivisions: Northern, Western, Southern and Eastern. The City of Adelaide is part of the Eastern subdivision, but information on the City of Adelaide is presented separately in this report.
Table 5 shows that the rate of homelessness was 457 per 10 000 in the City of Adelaide, where there were 762 homeless people. The City of Adelaide had 1.5 per cent of Adelaide's population, but 15 per cent of its homeless people. It is usual to find a higher rate of homelessness in the inner suburbs of capital cities. This is the case in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Hobart. People often gravitate to the inner city, where services for homeless people have traditionally been located.

Table 5: Number of homeless people and rate per 10 000 of the population, Adelaide statistical subdivisions

  City* Eastern Northern Western Southern Total
Number 762 798 1498 1012 1143 5213
Rate 457 39 42 49 35 47

Source: Census of Population and Housing 2006, SAAP Client Collection 2006, National Census of Homeless School Students 2006.
* City figures are separated here from the Eastern subdivision figures.

The rate of homelessness was 35 per 10 000 in the Southern subdivision and 39 per 10 000 in the Eastern subdivision (Table 5). The rate was slightly higher in the Northern (42 per 10 000) and Western subdivisions (49 per 10 000), where there were 1498 and 1012 homeless people respectively.
Altogether, there were 4451 homeless people in suburban Adelaide compared with 762 in the inner city. The provision of services in suburban areas assists people in the early stages of homelessness, including those at risk, and reduces the move to the inner city.

8 Regional and remote

There are six statistical divisions covering regional South Australia, comprising 16 subdivisions spread across a large geographical area. They have a population of 405 870, and there were 2743 homeless people (Table 6). Chapter 5 investigates whether the homeless population was spread evenly across the remainder of South Australia.
The overall picture is summarised in Table 6. There were 5213 homeless people in Adelaide, where the rate of homelessness was 47 per 10 000. However, there were 2743 homeless people in regional and remote South Australia, where the rate was 68 per 10 000.

Table 6: Homeless people and marginal residents of caravan parks, Adelaide and regional/remote South Australia

  Adelaide Rural and remote Total*
Number of homeless 5213 2743 7962
Rate per 10 000 47 68 53
Caravan park residents 240 508 748
Total 5453 3251 8710
Rate per 10 000 49 80 58

Source: Census of Population and Housing 2006, SAAP Client Collection 2006, National Census of Homeless School Students 2006.
* No geographical information on 6 people.

For some policy purposes marginal residents of caravan parks might be thought of as part of the tertiary population. If these residents are included, then the rate of homelessness was 49 per 10 000 in Adelaide and 80 per 10 000 in regional South Australia.