Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2016) A profile of Specialist Homelessness Services homeless clients 2011–12 to 2014–15, AIHW, Australian Government, accessed 01 February 2023.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2016). A profile of Specialist Homelessness Services homeless clients 2011–12 to 2014–15. Retrieved from https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/homelessness-services/a-profile-of-specialist-homelessness-services-home
A profile of Specialist Homelessness Services homeless clients 2011–12 to 2014–15. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 18 October 2016, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/homelessness-services/a-profile-of-specialist-homelessness-services-home
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. A profile of Specialist Homelessness Services homeless clients 2011–12 to 2014–15 [Internet]. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2016 [cited 2023 Feb. 1]. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/homelessness-services/a-profile-of-specialist-homelessness-services-home
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2016, A profile of Specialist Homelessness Services homeless clients 2011–12 to 2014–15, viewed 1 February 2023, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/homelessness-services/a-profile-of-specialist-homelessness-services-home
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For the purposes of the Specialist Homelessness Services Collection (SHSC), a couch surfer is a client who typically moves from household to household intermittently, who is not regarded as being part of the household, and who does not have any form of leased tenure over any accommodation .
Couch surfers are usually included as a subset of those clients in short-term or emergency accommodation. For the purposes of this analysis, couch surfers are being examined separately as they are demographically different to the other clients in short-term or emergency accommodation.
Between 2011-12 and 2014-15, a total of 52,729 clients (12% of all Specialist Homelessness Services (SHS) clients aged 15 and over) were couch surfing upon first presentation to SHS. Per year, this ranged from 15,836 in 2011-12 to 20,839 in 2014-15, peaking at 21,028 in 2013-14.
Typically couch surfers are…
female, aged less than 25 years, unemployed and located in Major cities.
The most common reasons couch surfers gave for seeking assistance from SHS were (Figure CS.1):
Source: Supplementary data source table.
Compared with general SHS clients, couch surfers were less likely to request assistance from SHS for:
At the time of presentation to SHS, almost three-quarters (73%) of couch surfers needed assistance with accommodation, compared with just over half (55%) of all SHS clients (Supplementary Tables CS.12; SHS.1). This need was highest for short-term or emergency accommodation and lowest for medium-term or transitional accommodation (Figure CS.2).
In general, couch surfers were less likely to receive assistance with accommodation when compared with all SHS clients (49% compared with 57%, respectively).
Couch surfers were less likely than SHS clients to receive all forms of accommodation:
Difficulties with interpersonal relationships, including family breakdown was listed by more than half of all couch surfers (55%) as a reason for seeking assistance. A lower proportion of couch surfers were identified as needing these services, with around one-in five needing assistance with family relationships (21%) or domestic and family violence (17%).
Couch surfers were equally likely as typical SHS clients aged 15 and over to request assistance with the remaining general services.
At the time of presentation to SHS, around 1 in 4 (26%) couch surfers needed assistance for health reasons. This is the same rate experienced by SHS clients aged 15 and over. But, couch surfers were less likely than SHS clients to need assistance with:
It is important to note that these findings relate to all couch surfers, and the needs for males and females are likely to differ. This may be particularly in relation to domestic and family violence, and other relationship issues.
While the needs identified for couch surfers are largely consistent with typical SHS clients, couch surfers are marginally less likely to need assistance with legal services such as:
1 in 10 (10%) couch surfers experienced repeat homelessness between 2011-12 and 2014-15. This means that the client transitioned between being homeless, housed and then homeless again at least once during this time.
Female couch surfers were slightly more likely then male couch surfers to experience repeat homelessness over time (11% and 9%, respectively). Between 2011-12 and 2014-15, the number of both males and females who presented to SHS agencies as couch surfers and who have experienced more than one episode of homelessness increased, from 2,748 in 2011-12 to 3,266 in 2014-15, peaking at 4,008 in 2013-14.
This indicates that sustainable housing outcomes may be problematic for this group, particularly for females.
More than 2 in 5 (41% or 21,539) clients who first presented to homelessness services as couch surfers remained couch surfing at the end of support. Almost 1 in 3 (29%) clients presenting as a couch surfer ended their support 'housed' (19% ended their support in private rental housing and 10% in public or community housing).
Other housing outcomes for couch surfers who sought assistance from SHS agencies included: transitioning to short term or emergency accommodation (10%), rough sleeping (3%), and ending support in an institutional setting (1%). Despite support periods being closed, the housing outcome for almost 1 in 5 (16%) couch surfers was unknown at the end of their support (Figure CS.3).
Source: Supplementary data source table.
Compared with the total couch surfer population, those that ended their support 'housed' were more likely to: be female, have experienced domestic and family violence, have reported experiencing a mental health issue, be located in a Major city, and presented to services accompanied by children. They are less likely to present to services alone, or to have experienced repeated episodes of homelessness (Table CS.2).
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