Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2019) Specialist Homelessness Services annual report 2018–19, AIHW, Australian Government, accessed 20 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. 20]. 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 20 May 2022, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/homelessness-services/shs-annual-report-18-19
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Family conflict and mental illness have been identified as youth homelessness risk factors, as has leaving the parental home prior to establishing stable employment (Carlisle et al. 2018, Steen & MacKenzie 2017). Young people can face discrimination in the private rental market due to lack of rental references and fewer financial resources (Homelessness Australia 2016).
Youth homelessness can lead to disruption of education and poorer education outcomes, which in turn leads to further economic disadvantage, perpetuating the cycle of homelessness in adulthood. For example, living in overcrowded housing can adversely affect the number of school years completed as students do not have enough space to do homework, get enough sleep or establish a routine (Fildes et al. 2018). There is concern that young people who do not seek support face substantial challenges in maintaining or engaging with education and employment, which is why it is important to provide greater avenues for preventing and responding to youth homelessness (Stone 2017).
According to Census estimates, around 27,700 young people aged 12–24 were experiencing homelessness on Census night in 2016, making up 24% of the total homeless population (ABS 2016). However, youth homelessness is likely to be underestimated in the Census (ABS 2016). For example, a usual address may be reported for couch surfers because the young person is staying in a household on Census night. It can be difficult to identify people experiencing this form of homelessness because of the transient nature of couch surfing and often young couch surfers do not classify themselves as homeless (Terui & Hsieh 2016). For more information, see Couch surfers. Children and young people are a national priority cohort listed in the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement, which came into effect on 1 July 2018 (CFFR 2018) (see Policy section for more information).
Young people presenting alone are defined as any client aged 15–24 who presented to a SHS agency alone in their first support period in the financial year.
In 2018–19 (Table YOUNG.1):
Number of clients
Housing situation at the beginning of the first support period (proportion (per cent) of all clients)
At risk of homelessness
Source: Specialist Homelessness Services Collection 2014–15 to 2018–19.
In 2018–19, of young people presenting alone (Supplementary table YOUNG.1):
Of those whose education status was known, around 3 in 10 young people presenting alone were enrolled in education (29% or nearly 11,300 clients).
Young people presenting alone may face additional vulnerabilities that make them more susceptible to homelessness, in particular family and domestic violence, mental health issues and problematic drug and/or alcohol use.
Of the 43,000 young people presenting alone in 2018–19, 3 in 5 (62%) reported experiencing one or more of these vulnerabilities (Table YOUNG.2):
Family and domestic violence
Mental health issue
and/or alcohol use
Source: Specialist Homelessness Services Collection 2018–19.
Most young people presenting alone in 2018–19 (56% or 24,100 clients) were returning clients, having previously been assisted by an SHS agency at some point since the collection began in 2011–12. Returning clients were more likely to be 18–24 (80%, compared with 65% of new clients).
In 2018–19, the main reasons for seeking assistance among young people presenting alone were:
Young people who were known to be homeless at first presentation were more likely to identify housing crisis (25%, compared with 14% of clients at risk) or inadequate or inappropriate dwelling conditions (16%, compared with 8% at risk) as their main reason for seeking assistance.
Family and domestic violence was the most commonly reported main reason for seeking assistance among young people presenting alone who were known to be at risk of homelessness. Compared with those who were homeless, young people at risk were twice as likely to report family and domestic violence as the main reason for seeking assistance (19%, compared with 10% homeless clients).
Services needed and provided
Similar to the overall SHS population, the majority of young people presenting alone needed general services that were provided by SHS agencies including advice/information, advocacy/liaison on behalf of client and other basic assistance.
Apart from those services, the most common services requested by young people presenting alone were (Figure YOUNG.1):
Source: Specialist Homelessness Services Collection 2018–19, Supplementary table YOUNG.3.
Young people presenting alone 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.
At the end of the reporting period in 2018–19 (Table YOUNG.3):
These trends demonstrate that by the end of support, many clients have achieved or progressed towards a more positive housing solution. That is, the number and/or proportion of clients ending support in public or community housing (renter or rent-free), private or other housing (renter or rent-free) or institutional settings had increased compared with the start of support.
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 2018–19. Supplementary table YOUNG.4.
For clients with a known housing status who were at risk of homelessness at the start of support (almost 12,200 clients), by the end of support (Figure YOUNG.2):
A smaller number were experiencing homelessness at the end of support (around 1,700 clients or 14% 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 (almost 13,200 clients), agencies were able to assist (Figure YOUNG.3):
More than 1 in 3 (35% or almost 4,600 clients) were couch surfing at the end of support.
ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2016. Census of population and housing: estimating homelessness, 2016. ABS cat. no. 2049.0. Canberra: ABS.
AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) 2018. Couch surfers: a profile of Specialist Homelessness Services clients. Cat. no. HOU 298. Canberra: AIHW.
Carlisle E, Fildes J, Hall S, Hicking V, Perrens B & Plummer J 2018. Youth survey report 2018. Sydney: Mission Australia.
CFFR (Council on Federal Financial Relations) 2018. National Housing and Homelessness Agreement. Viewed 3 October 2019.
Fildes J, Perrens B & Plummer J 2018. Young people’s experiences of homelessness: findings from the youth survey 2017. Sydney: Mission Australia.
Homelessness Australia 2016. Homelessness and young people. Fact sheet, January 2016. Canberra: Homelessness Australia. Viewed 3 October 2019,
Steen A & MacKenzie D 2017. The sustainability of the youth foyer model: a comparison of the UK and Australia. Social Policy & Society 16(3): 391–404. doi:10.1017/S1474746416000178.
Stone C 2017. Skills to pay the bills: education, employment and youth homelessness. Foundation paper. Sydney: Yfoundations. Viewed 3 October 2019,
Terui S & Hsieh E 2016. ‘Not homeless yet. I’m kind of couch surfing’: finding identities for people at a homeless shelter. Social Work in Public Health 31(7): 688–699.
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