Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2019) Specialist Homelessness Services annual report 2018–19, AIHW, Australian Government, accessed 04 February 2023.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2019). Specialist Homelessness Services annual report 2018–19. Retrieved from https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/homelessness-services/shs-annual-report-18-19
Specialist Homelessness Services annual report 2018–19. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 18 December 2019, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/homelessness-services/shs-annual-report-18-19
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Specialist Homelessness Services annual report 2018–19 [Internet]. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2019 [cited 2023 Feb. 4]. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/homelessness-services/shs-annual-report-18-19
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2019, Specialist Homelessness Services annual report 2018–19, viewed 4 February 2023, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/homelessness-services/shs-annual-report-18-19
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Upon release from prison, dischargees can face stigma associated with a history of imprisonment and face discrimination from landlords and potential employers (Schetzer & StreetCare 2013). People applying for parole may experience difficulties securing accommodation, leading to refusal of parole or breach of parole conditions and subsequent return to prison. Parole officers must approve accommodation conditions for the duration of parole and if the assigned accommodation (including temporary or supported accommodation) becomes unavailable, it puts these people in breach of their parole conditions (Schetzer & StreetCare 2013).
People exiting custody can be supported to find stable housing by provision of adequate exit planning prior to release and integrated case management post-release (Schetzer & StreetCare 2013). People discharged from prison need housing and employment for successful re-entry into the community and to reduce the likelihood of returning to prison. Dischargees without housing often cycle from prison into homelessness and back into prison, with prison dischargees who experience homelessness almost twice as likely to return to prison within 9 months of release (Baldry et al. 2006).
Young people leaving juvenile detention centres also face a high risk of becoming homeless, especially those who spend 12 months or more in juvenile detention (Bevitt et al. 2015). Homelessness or housing instability are often cited as drivers of increasing juvenile detention populations, with young people remanded in custody ‘for their own good’ due to a lack of appropriate options for accommodation (Cunneen et al. 2016; Richards 2011). Among young people who were released from juvenile detention, 1 in 8 (12%) received homelessness support within 2 years of leaving, while 1 in 12 (8%) received homeless support within 12 months (AIHW 2012). People with a history of juvenile justice supervision are also more vulnerable to homelessness in later years. People who have previously been in juvenile detention were almost twice as likely to have slept rough or in squats (Bevitt et al. 2015).
At 30 June 2018, there were almost 43,000 adult prisoners in custody, representing a 4% increase since 30 June 2017 and a 40% increase over the past 5 years (ABS 2018). Finding suitable, stable accommodation is a major concern for people who are discharged from prison, particularly for those without family support. More than half (54%) of prison dischargees expect to be homeless upon release; many (44%) plan to sleep in short-term or emergency accommodation upon release (AIHW 2019).
People exiting institutions and care into homelessness are a national priority homelessness cohort identified in the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement which came into effect on 1 July 2018 (CFFR 2018) (see Policy section for more information).
A client is identified as transitioning from a custodial setting if they are 10 years or older and provided any of the following information in their first support period (week before or at the beginning of support period):
Their dwelling type was:
One of their reasons for seeking assistance was:
Their formal referral source was:
Note, in the SHS collection it is not possible to distinguish between clients who have sought assistance without leaving an institutional setting (that is, they may have engaged with in-reach programs pending release from an institution) and those who may have left an institutional setting but returned prior to the end of support.
For more information see Technical notes.
In 2018–19 (Table EXIT.1):
Number of clients
Proportion of all clients
Rate (per 10,000 population)
Housing situation at the beginning of the first support period (proportion (per cent) of all clients)
At risk of homelessness
Length of support (median number of days)
Average number of support periods per client
Proportion receiving accommodation
Median number of nights accommodated
Proportion of a client group with a case management plan
Achievement of all case management goals (per cent)
Source: Specialist Homelessness Services Collection 2014–15 to 2018–19.
One in 4 clients whose Indigenous status was known exiting custodial arrangements identified as Indigenous (26% or almost 2,400 clients). Female clients who were exiting custodial arrangements were more likely than male clients to identify as Indigenous (34% of females, compared with 24% of males).
SHS clients can face additional vulnerabilities that make them more susceptible to experiencing homelessness, in particular family and domestic violence, mental health issues and problematic drug and/or alcohol use.
In 2018–19, of the almost 9,600 clients exiting custody, 3 in 5 (62%) reported experiencing one or more of these vulnerabilities (Table EXIT.2):
Family and domestic violence
Mental health issue
and/or alcohol use
Source: Specialist Homelessness Services Collection 2018–19.
In 2018–19, the main reasons for seeking assistance among clients exiting custodial arrangements were:
Clients exiting custodial arrangements who were at risk of homeless at first presentation were more likely to identify their main reason for seeking assistance as transition from custodial arrangements (76% of those at risk, compared with 44% experiencing homelessness).
Compared with those who were at risk, clients exiting custodial arrangements who were homeless were more likely to report housing crisis (16%, compared with 5% at risk) or inadequate or inappropriate dwelling conditions (12%, compared with 2% at risk) as the main reason for seeking assistance.
Services needed and provided
Similar to the overall SHS population, clients exiting custodial arrangements needed general services that were provided by SHS agencies including advice/information, advocacy/liaison on behalf of client and other basic assistance.
Apart from general services, the most common services requested by clients exiting custody were:
Clients exiting custody were also more likely than the overall SHS population to request services including:
Outcomes presented here describe the change in clients’ housing situation between the start and end of support. Data is limited to clients who ceased receiving support during the financial year—meaning that their support periods had closed and they did not have ongoing support at the end of the year.
Many clients had long periods of support or even multiple support periods during 2018–19. They may have had a number of changes in their housing situation over the course of their support. These changes within the year are not reflected in the data presented here, rather the client situation at the start of their first support period in 2018–19 is compared with the end of their last support period in 2018–19. A proportion of these clients may have sought assistance prior to 2018–19, and may again in the future.
In 2018–19, for clients exiting custodial arrangements (Table EXIT.3):
These trends demonstrate that known housing outcomes at the end of support can be challenging for clients transitioning from institutional settings. While some clients progressed towards more positive housing solutions, many remained in institutional settings, returned to institutional settings or were in temporary accommodation at the end of support. Some clients might only require short-term accommodation immediately after leaving, others might need support to access or maintain housing in the long-term.
Beginning of support
Beginning of support
House, townhouse or flat - couch surfer or with no tenure
Public or community housing - renter or rent free
Private or other housing - renter, rent free or owner
Total at risk
Source: Specialist Homelessness Services Collection. Supplementary table EXIT.4.
AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) 2012. Children and young people at risk of social exclusion: links between homelessness, child protection and juvenile justice. Cat. no. CSI 13. Canberra: AIHW.
AIHW 2016. Vulnerable young people: interactions across homelessness, youth justice and child protection: 1 July 2011 to 30 June 2015. Cat. no. HOU 279. Canberra: AIHW.
AIHW 2019. The health of Australia’s prisoners 2018. Cat. no. PHE 246. Canberra: AIHW.
ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2018. Prisoners in Australia, 2018. ABS cat. no. 4517.0. Canberra: ABS.
Baldry E, McDonnell D, Maplestone P & Peeters M 2006. Ex-prisoners, homelessness and the State in Australia. The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology 39(1): 20–33.
Bevitt A, Chigavazira A, Herault N, Johnson G, Moschion J, Scutella R, Tsent Y-P, Wooden M & Kalb G 2015. Journeys Home research report no. 6: complete findings from waves 1 to 6. Melbourne: Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research.
CFFR (Council on Federal Financial Relations) 2018. National Housing and Homelessness Agreement. Viewed 3 October 2019,
Cunneen C, Goldson B & Russell S 2016. Juvenile justice, young people and human rights in Australia. Current Issues in Criminal Justice 28(2): 173–189. doi:10.1080/10345329.2016.12036067.
Richards K 2011. Trends in juvenile detention in Australia. Trends & issues in crime and criminal justice 416: 1-8. Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology.
Schetzer L & StreetCare 2013. Beyond the prison gates: the experiences of people recently released from prison into homelessness and housing crisis. Sydney: Public Interest Advocacy Centre.
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