Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2019) Specialist Homelessness Services annual report 2018–19, AIHW, Australian Government, accessed 25 May 2022.
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 2022 May. 25]. 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 25 May 2022, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/homelessness-services/shs-annual-report-18-19
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People with disability are a diverse group, with varied levels and types of support needs. Their pathways into and out of homelessness are just as varied, and how people with a disability experience homelessness may differ to other populations (Beer et al. 2012). People with disability may have a greater exposure to risk factors associated with homelessness than the general population (Beer et al. 2012). Low income, lack of social support, limited engagement with the labour market, compounded by the need for specialised assistance and services, can leave some people with disability increasingly vulnerable to the risk of homelessness and the negative impact of homelessness.
Timely access to safe, suitable and long-term housing can be critical to the wellbeing of people with disability. Affordable and secure housing can provide people with disability independence and the ability to participate in social, economic, sporting and cultural life. Housing that meets accessibility standards, is in close proximity to transport and to quality and affordable support services is also vital for those with disability (COAG 2011). The consequences of inadequate support may be severe for both those with physical and/or intellectual disabilities (Beer et al. 2012).
In 2018, an estimated 1 in 5 Australians (4.4 million people, or 18% of the total population) had disability (ABS 2019), ranging from mild to severe disabilities. Similar to 2006 and 2011, the 2016 Census identified around 5,700 people experiencing homelessness with disability in Australia (defined as people with a need for assistance with core activities) (ABS 2018). People with disability represented 5% of those experiencing homelessness on Census night in 2016.
Disability is a challenging concept to measure and there are numerous ways to identify it in any population. The SHSC disability questions are based on identifying whether the client has any difficulty and/or need for assistance with 3 core activities (self care, mobility and communication). These questions are asked of all SHS clients.
Data for clients with disability who required assistance may not be comparable across age groups due to differences in the interpretation of the SHSC disability questions. This issue mainly relates to young children, and therefore any comparisons between age groups should be made with caution.
Further details about measuring disability in the SHSC and the definition of a client with severe or profound core activity limitation are provided in the Technical notes.
In 2018–19 (Table DIS.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.
In 2018–19, of the 7,200 clients with severe or profound disability (Supplementary table DIS.1):
In 2018–19 (Supplementary table DIS.8):
In 2018–19 (Supplementary table DIS.2):
In 2018–19, of the clients with severe or profound disability, the most common living arrangement reported at the beginning of SHS support was living alone (37% or almost 2,700 clients) (Supplementary table DIS.9). The next most common living arrangement was one parent with child/ren (28% or 2,000) and then other family (13% or over 900 clients). These proportions have been similar over time.
Living with disability may not be the only challenge faced by this group of SHS clients. In 2018–19, 3 in 4 clients (74% or 4,000 clients) with severe or profound disability (aged 10 and over) reported experiencing one or more selected vulnerabilities: a current mental health issue, problematic drug and/or alcohol use or family and domestic violence (Table DIS.2). One in 4 clients (26% or 1,400) with disability did not report any of the selected vulnerabilities.
Mental health issue
and/or alcohol use
Source: Specialist Homelessness Services Collection 2018–19.
In 2018–19, clients with profound or severe disability:
The episodic or cyclic nature of homelessness can be explored by analysing whether clients with severe or profound disability were new to SHS agencies, or returning clients. In 2018–19, 62% (4,500 clients) of clients with severe or profound disability had also received SHS assistance at some time since the collection began in 2011–12 (Supplementary table DIS.7). The other 38% (2,700 clients) were new clients, that is, they only accessed services in 2018–19. One-third (34% or more than 900 clients) of new clients with disability were young, aged under 10.
In 2018–19, for SHS clients with severe or profound disability (Supplementary tables DIS.5 and DIS.6):
Four of the top 6 reasons clients with profound or severe disability sought SHS assistance were housing-related and the other 2 were financial reasons (Figure DIS.1). Of clients with disability in 2018–19:
Of the financial reasons for seeking SHS assistance:
Source: Specialist Homelessness Services Collection 2018–19, Supplementary table DIS.3.
In terms of other services that were needed by clients with severe or profound disability:
Outcomes presented here highlight the changes 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 period of support during 2018–19 is compared with the end of their last period of support 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, key features of the housing situation for clients with disability include (Table DIS.3):
SHS agencies were able to assist many clients secure or maintain housing, reducing the experience and risk of homelessness among clients with disability.
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 DIS.4.
For clients with severe or profound disability with a known housing status who were at risk of homelessness at the start of support (more than 2,300 clients), by the end of support (Interactive Tableau visualisation):
For clients who were known to be homeless at the start of support (almost 1,800 clients), agencies were able to assist:
For more information on people with disability, see People with disability in Australia, AIHW.
ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2019. Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: Summary of Findings, 2018 ABS cat. no. 4430.0. Canberra: ABS.
ABS 2018. Census of population and housing: Estimating homelessness, 2016. ABS cat. no. 2049.0. Canberra: ABS.
Beer A, Baker E, Mallett S, Batterham D, Pate A & Lester, L 2012 Addressing homelessness amongst persons with disability: Identifying and enacting best practice. FaHCSIA National Homelessness Research Project. Viewed 16 September 2019,
Beer A and Faulkner D 2009. The housing careers of people with a disability and carers of people with a disability. Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, Research paper. Melbourne: AHURI.
COAG (Council of Australian Governments) National Disability Strategy 2010–2020, 2011, Viewed 16 September 2019.
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