Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2019) Specialist Homelessness Services annual report 2018–19, AIHW, Australian Government, accessed 02 December 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 Dec. 2]. 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 2 December 2022, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/homelessness-services/shs-annual-report-18-19
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Home ownership rates for older Australians have decreased from 84% in 1995–96 to 81% in 2017–18 (ABS 2019). This largely reflects a drop in rates of home ownership of older people without a mortgage, decreasing from 77% in 1995–96 to 58% in 2017–18. An increase in home ownership with a mortgage offset much of this change, more than tripling from 7% in 1995–96 to 23% in 2017–18 (ABS 2019).
Older Australians are a national priority homelessness cohort in the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement (CFFR 2018) (see Policy section for more information) recognising the severe impact homelessness may have on older Australians. The number and proportion of Australians who are aged 55 and over have been increasing over recent decades, and are expected to continue to grow (AIHW 2018). During 2018–19, people aged 55 and over comprised 8% (24,200 clients) of all Specialist Homelessness Services (SHS) clients. Specialist homelessness service use by this group is increasing with the number of clients up 36% since 2014–15.
The experiences of older people accessing SHS for assistance have been further investigated in a recent AIHW report. For the purposes of the Specialist Homelessness Services Collection (SHSC), older people are defined as clients aged 55 years and over. For further information, see Technical notes.
In 2018–19 (Table OLDER.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.
Of the almost 24,200 older clients who received SHS support during 2018–19:
The proportion of clients 55 and over was lower for Indigenous clients (5% or 3,300) compared with non-Indigenous clients (9% or 18,500).
Source: Specialist Homelessness Services Collection 2018–19, Supplementary table OLDER.11.
In 2018–19, of the almost 21,900 clients who stated their living arrangement upon presentation to a SHS agency (Supplementary table OLDER.9):
The majority of older clients (54% or 13,000) reported no vulnerabilities (defined as a current mental health issue, experiencing family and domestic violence, or problematic drug and/or alcohol use) (Table OLDER.2).
Family and domestic violence
Mental health issue
and/or alcohol use
Source: Specialist Homelessness Services Collection 2018–19.
Since 2014–15, the number of older clients seeking assistance from SHS agencies increased at a greater rate than other age groups. Key trends identified in this client population over the 5 years to 2018–19 are (Table OLDER.1):
More than half (53% or 12,700) were returning clients, having previously been assisted by a SHS agency at some point since the collection began in 2011–12. Returning clients were more likely to be aged 55–64 (69% compared with 60% of new clients).
The 3 main reasons why older clients sought assistance from SHS agencies in 2018–19 were (Supplementary table OLDER.5):
The main reason for older clients seeking assistance was different for those experiencing homelessness compared with those presenting to services at risk of homelessness (Supplementary table OLDER.6).
In 2018–19, half (50% or 12,000) of older SHS clients needed accommodation, of those 34% were provided assistance. Demand was highest for long-term accommodation (39% or 9,300 needed long-term accommodation) compared with medium-term (21% or 5,000) and short-term or emergency accommodation (26% or 6,300). Of the older clients that needed long-term housing, less than 1 in 10 (7%) were provided assistance (Figure OLDER.2).
Other services most commonly needed by older clients during 2018–19 were:
Source: Specialist Homelessness Services Collection 2018–19, Supplementary table OLDER.3.
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.
At the end of the reporting period in 2018–19 (Table OLDER.3).
Clients living in public or community housing increased following support; there was an increase in clients living in some form of tenure over the course of support, including an increase in the proportion of clients living in public or community housing from 21% to 28% (or more than 4,600 clients).
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 OLDER.4.
For clients with a known housing status who were at risk of homelessness at the start of support (almost 10,700 clients), by the end of support (Figure OLDER.3):
Around 600 clients were experiencing homelessness at the end of support (6% of those who started support at risk).
Source: Specialist Homelessness Services Collection, 2018–19
For clients who were known to be homeless at the start of support (just over 5,200 clients) (Figure OLDER.4):
One in five clients (almost 1,100 or 20%) were couch surfing at the end of support.
ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2019. Housing Occupancy and Costs, Australia, 2017–18. ABS Cat. no. 4130.0. Canberra: ABS.
AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) 2018. Older Australia at a glance. Cat. No: AGE 87. Canberra: AIHW.
CFFR (Council on Federal Financial Relations) 2018 National Housing and Homelessness Agreement. Viewed 23 January 2019,
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