Service geography

Access to services can become increasingly difficult the further away a client is from a major city (ABS 2018). For Specialist Homelessness Services (SHS), state and territory systems for the assessment, intake, referral and ongoing case management of SHS clients vary, ranging from agency-based to centralised management models (PC 2019). This section provides an overview of the geography of SHS support services provided across Australia based on the location of the agency. 

Key findings

  • Agency client numbers increased across Remote or Very remote areas and Inner and Outer regional areas 2017–18 to 2018–19, while numbers in Major cities decreased over the same time period (over 2,800 clients).
  • Agencies in Inner regional areas had the greatest increase in client numbers (over 1,900 clients).
  • The housing situation of clients presenting to SHS agencies was different between remoteness areas, with most clients in Remote/Very remote areas (74%) at risk of homelessness, compared with just half for all other areas (56–58%).
  • The rate of service was highest in Remote or Very remote areas, 1 in 33 people compared with over 1 in 100 in Major cities and 1 in 66 and 1 in 65 in Inner and Outer regional areas respectively in 2018–19.

Reporting service location in the Specialist Homelessness Services Collection (SHSC)

This section examines client service needs and characteristics based on the location of the SHS agency, where the service was received, that is, the profile of clients receiving support in specific areas. Clients can access services in more than one remoteness area, however, for the purpose of the analysis, clients are assigned to one Remoteness Area based on the SHS agency where they first sought support in 2018–19. The 2016 Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS) (ABS 2018) is used to classify agencies by Remoteness Area based on the location details of each agency (see Technical Information).

In interpreting regional service trends throughout this section, ‘urban areas’ refer to Major cities and Inner and Outer regional areas and ‘remote areas’ refer to Remote and Very remote areas, unless otherwise stated.

Specialist homelessness services across urban and remote areas

In 2018–19, clients seeking assistance from SHS agencies in urban and remote areas displayed distinct characteristics:

  • Of those clients with a current mental health issue (around 86,500 clients), almost 2 in 3 (65%) presented to agencies for assistance in Major cities (Supplementary table MH.10).
  • Almost 9 in 10 (87%) SHS clients born overseas received services from agencies located in Major cities (Supplementary table CLIENTS.5).
  • Over 9 in 10 clients (92%) seeking services in remote areas identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander (Supplementary table INDIGENOUS.5).
  • The proportion of people who were homeless upon presentation was lower among the clients receiving support from services in remote areas (26%) compared with Major cities (43%) (Table REG.1).
  • The median length of accommodation received by clients of services in Major cities was 40 nights, compared with 5 nights in remote areas (Table REG.1).
  • The most common main reasons clients sought assistance across Remoteness Areas (Supplementary table REG.1) were:
    • Major cities: Family and domestic violence (29%), followed by housing crisis (21%).
    • Inner and Outer regional areas: Family and domestic violence (25% and 24% respectively) and housing crisis (19% and 21% respectively).  
    • Remote areas: Family and domestic violence (34%) and housing crisis (10%). One in 10 clients (10%) also listed inadequate or inappropriate dwelling conditions as the main reason for seeking assistance.

Trends over time

The SHS collection continues to reveal differences in client characteristics and service needs across Australia. Some key service trends between 2014–15 and 2018–19 (Table REG.1):

  • Taking into account population differences, agencies in remote areas consistently reported the highest rate of SHS clients. The rate of SHS clients accessing services located in remote areas was 3.0 times higher than in Major cities in 2018–19, up from 2.6 times in 2014–15.
  • Over this period, SHS support in remote areas provided accommodation to 3 in 5 clients each year (around 60%). This was higher than the proportion of clients provided with accommodation in urban areas (around 30%).
  • Agencies in Inner regional areas had the largest average annual growth in client numbers and the rate of service use (7% and 6% respectively) since 2014–15.
Table REG.1: Clients by agency geographic area: at a glance—2014–15 to 2018–19

Year

Major cities

Inner regional

Outer regional

Remote/very remote

Number of clients (proportion (per cent) of all clients)

2018–19 Number 176,507 67,607 31,676 14,527
  Per cent 61 23 11 5

2017–18

Number

179,323

65,671

30,352

13,449

 

Per cent

62

23

11

5

2016–17

Number

178,197

65,330

31,131

13,614

 

Per cent

62

23

11

5

2015–16

Number

174,744

60,013

30,790

13,650

 

Per cent

63

21

11

5

2014–15

Number

162,286

52,061

28,257

13,053

 

Per cent

63

20

11

5

Rate (per 10,000 population)

2018–19   98.0 152.1 154.3 295.5

2017–18

 

101.5

149.6

148.2

273.0

2016–17

 

103.5

148.9

149.1

272.2

2015–16

 

103.4

138.6

147.8

268.4

2014–15

 

97.7

121.6

136.1

252.6

Housing situation at the beginning of first support period (proportion (per cent) of all clients)

2018–19 Homeless 43 42 44 26
  At risk of homelessness 57 58 56 74

2017–18

Homeless

44

43

44

28

 

At risk of homelessness

56

57

56

72

2016–17

Homeless

46

43

42

27

 

At risk of homelessness

54

57

58

73

2015–16

Homeless

45

43

43

27

 

At risk of homelessness

55

57

57

73

2014–15

Homeless

45

41

43

29

 

At risk of homelessness

55

59

57

71

Length of support (median number of days)

2018–19   40 58 40 19

2017–18

 

35

53

39

20

2016–17

 

34

46

37

20

2015–16

 

33

41

36

17

2014–15

 

32

39

36

17

Average number of support periods per client

2018–19   1.8 1.6 1.5 1.6

2017–18

 

1.8

1.6

1.5

1.6

2016–17

 

1.8

1.6

1.5

1.6

2015–16

 

1.7

1.6

1.5

1.5

2014–15

 

1.7

1.5

1.5

1.5

Proportion receiving accommodation

2018–19   28 25 33 63

2017–18

 

27

25

36

62

2016–17

 

28

25

37

59

2015–16

 

29

27

39

62

2014–15

 

31

29

41

58

Median number of nights accommodated

2018–19   40 33 24 5

2017–18

 

46

34

23

5

2016–17

 

48

31

24

5

2015–16

 

48

34

23

5

2014–15

 

48

35

21

5

Proportion of a client group who had a case management plan (per cent)

2018–19   63 67 78 56

2017–18

 

60

66

77

65

2016–17

 

59

64

74

64

2015–16

 

59

61

75

60

2014–15

 

58

61

73

62

Achievement of all case management goals (per cent)

2018–19   25 17 36 25

2017–18

 

25

17

34

24

2016–17

 

25

16

27

23

2015–16

 

24

16

31

27

2014–15

 

27

18

30

29

Notes

  1. Rates are crude rates based on the Australian estimated resident population (ERP) at 30 June of the reference year. Minor adjustments in rates may occur between publications reflecting revision of the estimated resident population by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
  2. The denominator for the proportion achieving all case management goals is the number of client groups with a case management plan. Denominator values for proportions are provided in the relevant supplementary table.
  3. Previous years’ data can be found in the 2017–18 Specialist Homelessness Services Annual report.
  4. Data for 2014–15 to 2016–17 have been adjusted for non-response. Due to improvements in the rates of agency participation and SLK validity, data from 2017–18 are not weighted. The removal of weighting does not constitute a break in time series and weighted data from 2014–15 to 2016–17 are comparable with unweighted data for 2017–18 onwards. For further information, please refer to the Technical Notes.

Source: Specialist Homelessness Services Collection 2014–15 to 2018–19.

Services needed and provided

In 2018–19 (Figure REG.1):

  • The proportion of clients needing short-term or emergency accommodation was highest for services in more remote areas: Major cities 36%, Inner regional areas 39%, Outer regional areas 41%, and Remote/Very remote areas 64%.
  • Just under half of clients of Inner regional services (46%) needed long-term housing compared with 37% in Major cities.
  • Nearly 9 in 10 (87%) requests for accommodation were met by services in remote areas, while clients of services in Major cities and Inner regional areas were less likely to receive accommodation (51% and 41% of need met, respectively).
    • Outer regional areas had the highest proportion of clients referred to other agencies after identifying a need for accommodation services (18% or almost 3,500 clients).
  • Clients in Remote and Very remote areas were more likely to receive short-term or emergency accommodation (92%) than those in Major cities (56%) and Inner regional (49%) areas.
  • Need for mental health services was higher among clients of services in Major cities (10% or over 18,200 clients) and Inner regional areas (9% or over 5,900 clients) than those in Outer regional areas (6% or over 2,000 clients) and Remote and Very remote areas (4% or around 500 clients).

Figure REG.1: Clients by most needed services, by remoteness area, 2018–19

Figure REG.1: Clients by most needed services, by remoteness area, 2018–19. The horizontal bar graph shows clients in outer regional, and remote and very remote areas were more likely to require assistance for short-term or emergency accommodation, but less likely to need medium-term or transitional housing than clients in Major cities and Inner regional areas. For general services, those in outer regional, and remote and very remote areas were more likely to require assistance for transport, laundry and shower facilities and meals.

Notes

  1. Most needed excludes 'General services', ‘Other basic assistance’, ‘Advice/information’, and ‘Advocacy/liaison on behalf of client’.
  2. Short-term accommodation includes temporary and emergency accommodation; medium-term housing includes transitional housing; and sustain tenancy/prevent eviction includes assistance to sustain tenancy or prevent tenancy failure or eviction.
  3. Proportions have been calculated using the client count for each remoteness area as the denominator.

Source: Specialist Homelessness Services Collection 2018–19, Supplementary table REG.4.

Outcomes at the end of support

Outcomes presented here describe the change in clients’ housing situation between the start and end of support during 2018–19. 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 (Table REG.2).

  • Clients accessing services in Outer regional areas were the least likely to end support in housing (66%), noting that this group also had the highest proportion presenting to SHS experiencing homelessness (45%).
  • Clients of Inner regional services were the most likely to be housed in private or other housing following support (48%). They were also the most likely to improve their housing situation following SHS assistance with 70% housed at the end of support, up 14 percentage points from the beginning of support.
  • Clients accessing agencies in Remote and Very remote areas were more likely to report living in public or community housing (66%) at the beginning of their support. The majority of clients (78%) were in housing at the end of support.
Table REG.2: Clients with closed support, by Remoteness Area, by housing situation at the beginning and end of support, 2018–19 

Housing situation

Beginning of support
(number)

End of
support
(number)

Beginning of support
(per cent)

End of
support
(per cent)

Major cities

No shelter or improvised/inadequate dwelling
 
11,677 6,717 10.3 6.1
Short term temporary accommodation 20,420 18,059 18.0 16.4

House, townhouse or flat - couch surfer or with no tenure

17,505

11,913

15.4

10.8

Total homeless 49,602 36,689 43.7 33.4

Public or community housing - renter or rent free

12,329

18,497

10.9

16.8

Private or other housing - renter, rent free or owner

46,894

51,337

41.3

46.7

Institutional settings

4,643

3,420

4.1

3.1

Total at risk

63,866

73,254

56.3

66.6

Total clients with known housing situation 113,468 109,943 100.0 100.0
Not stated/other 22,607 26,132    

Total clients

136,075

136,075

 

 

Inner regional

No shelter or improvised/inadequate dwelling 4,548 2,745 10.3 6.4

Short term temporary accommodation

5,687

4,393

12.8

10.2

House, townhouse or flat - couch surfer or with no tenure

9,173

5,948

20.7

13.8

Total homeless

19,408

13,086

43.9

30.3

Public or community housing - renter or rent free 4,920 8,321 11.1 19.3
Private or other housing - renter, rent free or owner 18,150 20,579 41.0 47.6
Institutional settings 1,780 1,221 4.0 2.8
Total at risk 24,850 30,121 56.1 69.7

Total clients with known housing situation

44,258

43,207

100.0

100.0

Not stated/other 7,343 8,394    
Total clients 51,601 51,601    

Outer regional

No shelter or improvised/inadequate dwelling 2,431 1,342 10.6 6.0

Short term temporary accommodation

3,400

3,089

14.8

13.8

House, townhouse or flat - couch surfer or with no tenure

4,528

3,108

19.7

13.9

Total homeless

10,359

7,539

45.1

33.7

Public or community housing - renter or rent free

3,745

5,404

16.3

24.2

Private or other housing - renter, rent free or owner 8,029 8,799 35.0 39.4
Institutional settings 817 611 3.6 2.7
Total at risk 12,591 14,814 54.9 66.3
Total clients with known housing situation 22,950 22,353 100.0 100.0
Not stated/other 2,065 2,662    
Total clients 25,015 25,015    

Remote and Very remote

No shelter or improvised/inadequate dwelling 448 233 4.5 2.3

Short term temporary accommodation

937

1,010

9.3

10.1

House, townhouse or flat - couch surfer or with no tenure

1,076

953

10.7

9.5

Total homeless

2,461

2,196

24.5

21.9

Public or community housing - renter or rent free

6,602

6,755

65.8

67.5

Private or other housing - renter, rent free or owner 823 942 8.2 9.4
Institutional settings 148 119 1.5 1.2
Total at risk 7,573 7,816 75.5 78.1
Total clients with known housing situation 10,034 10,012 100.0 100.0
Not stated/other 1,623 1,645    
Total clients 11,657 11,657    

Notes

  1. Percentages have been calculated using total number of clients as the denominator (less not stated/other).
  2. It is important to note that individual clients beginning support in one housing type need not necessarily be the same individuals ending support in that housing type.
  3. Not stated/other includes those clients whose housing situation at either the beginning or end of support was unknown. Source: Specialist Homelessness Services Collection. Supplementary table REG.5.

Housing outcomes for homeless versus at risk clients

For clients with a known housing status who were at risk of homelessness at the start of support, by the end of support (Interactive Tableau visualisation):

  • Most clients in Major cities (39,100 clients or 65%) were in private housing.
  • Most clients in Inner regional areas (15,000 clients or 64%) were in private housing.
  • Most clients in Outer regional areas (6,800 clients or 56%) were in private housing, with an additional 30% (3,600 clients) in public or community housing.
  • Most clients in Remote or Very remote areas (5,900 clients or 81%) were in public or community housing.

For clients who were known to be homeless at the start of support, at the end of support:

  • In Major cities: 13,300 clients (30%) were in short term accommodation.
  • In Inner regional areas: 4,600 clients (26%) were in private housing.
  • In Outer regional areas: 2,600 clients (27%) were couch surfing.
  • In Remote and Very remote areas: 700 clients (30%) remained couch surfing.

References

ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2018. Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS): Volume 5—Remoteness structure, July 2016. ABS cat. no. 1270.0.55.005. Canberra: ABS.

PC (Productivity Commission) 2019. Report of Government Services 2019: Part G, Section 19: Homelessness Services. Viewed September 2019.