Housing is critically important for people’s wellbeing and security, particularly as people near or reach retirement age (ABS 2017). Governments across Australia fund Specialist Homelessness Services (SHS) to support people who are experiencing homelessness or who are at risk of homelessness.

In 2017–18, there were over 24,100 older clients (55 years and over) who received services from SHS agencies. Of these, 20,800 clients either experienced homelessness or were at risk of homelessness. Almost 14,000 clients (67%) were at risk of homelessness at presentation to agencies and a further 7,000 (33%) were experiencing homelessness (housing situation was unknown for around 3,000 clients), which differs to all SHS clients (57% at risk and 43% experiencing homelessness) (AIHW 2019). The rate of older SHS clients (per 10,000 age specific population) increased by an annual average of 5.8% over the five years to 2017–18, over three times the increase for all SHS clients (1.7%). The proportion of SHS clients aged 55 and older increased from 7% of all SHS clients in 2013–14 to 8% in 2017–18.

In the snapshot data, annual data provided a summary of those who received services during a financial year. Over 24,100 older SHS clients accessed assistance in 2017–18, up from 17,300 in 2013–14.

In the 5 year longitudinal data, older clients receiving services over the total period between 2013–14 and 2017–18 were analysed to determine long-term trends in use of SHS, focussing on whether clients received services in a single financial year or multiple years. Over the total 5 year period 2013–14 to 2017–18, there were over 86,000 older clients of SHS agencies. Note: clients aged 55 or older (on 30 June 2018) who received SHS services during this time were included.


ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2017. Housing Occupancy and Costs, Australia, 2015–16. ABS cat. no. 4130.0. Canberra: ABS.

AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) 2019Specialist homelessness services annual report 2017–18. Cat. no. HOU 299. Canberra: AIHW.