Client geography


Key findings

  • The highest rate of clients were in the Northern Territory – Outback (621.3 clients per 10,000 population or around 6,100 clients) and Western Australia – Outback (North) (572.1 clients per 10,000 or 5,700 clients) regions.
  • The lowest rate of clients were in the Queensland in Brisbane – West (13.1 clients per 10,000) and Moreton Bay (16.6 clients per 10,000) regions.
  • In two thirds of the regions, the majority of SHS clients (where housing situation and SA4 were known) were at risk of homelessness; in the remaining one third of SA4 regions, the majority of clients in those regions were experiencing homelessness.
  • The highest proportion of homeless clients was in the Perth – Inner (73%) region and the highest proportion of at risk clients was in the Sydney – Inner South West (76%) region.

The rate at which people access Specialist Homelessness Services (SHS) can vary geographically due to varying service availability and region-specific factors such as housing availability and affordability. It is important to note that the rate of SHS clients is a measure of service response and does not necessarily reflect the total number of people in a local area in unstable housing situations.

In Australia, market changes can influence the availability of housing options within an area (Wood et al. 2014). Although the rate of homelessness is higher in remote areas, it is increasingly more common in areas with decreasing availability of affordable private renting and increasing overcrowding, such as major cities (Parkinson et al. 2019).

This section provides an overview of the geography of clients supported by SHS clients across Australia based on the client’s location prior to receiving SHS support.

Identifying client location in the Specialist Homelessness Services Collection (SHSC)

This section examines people seeking SHS support based on where the person lived in the week before presenting to a SHS agency, as reported at the first support period during 2020–21. Clients are assigned to only one region for the financial year but may move to other regions before subsequent support periods. This location may not be a permanent address, for example, people who were couch surfing the week prior to seeking services may nominate the location of their temporary accommodation. Client location is classified to Statistical Area 4 (SA4) based on the 2016 Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS) (ABS 2016). A total of 88 SA4s are reported in this section, which excludes non-geographic codes and Other Territories. Please note that other geographic analysis in the report is based on agency location. See Technical information for more details.

Geographic profile of SHS clients

In 2020–21, SHS agencies assisted nearly 278,300 clients across Australia. The rate of people receiving SHS services varied by region in 2020–21 (Supplementary table CLIENTLOC.1):

  • The highest rate of SHS clients were in Northern Territory – Outback (621.3 clients per 10,000 population), higher than the Northern Territory and national rates (411.5 and 108.3 respectively).
  • The highest number of clients was in Melbourne – West (Victoria) (13,800 clients or 158.6 per 10,000 population).

Figure CLIENTLOC.1: Clients by age and sex, Statistical Area 4 (SA4), 2020–21

This interactive dashboard includes an interactive map of Australia that shows the number and rate per 10,000 population of clients in each of Australia’s Statistical Area 4 regions in 2020–21. The dashboard includes two interactive horizontal bar graphs that further show the proportion of clients seeking services by sex and age group in the selected SA4 region, compared to the proportion of clients in Australia by sex and age group.

Of the 278,300 SHS clients in 2020–21, females made up the majority of clients; 60% or around 167,400 clients (Supplementary table CLIENTS.1). The location of male and female clients the week before presenting to a SHS agency varied (Figure CLIENTLOC.1):

  • The highest proportion of female clients receiving services were in Western Australia – Wheat Belt and Sydney – Ryde; 74% and 72% respectively.
  • Male clients made up the majority of clients in more urban areas of state capital cities with the highest proportion of males in Perth - Inner (56%).

The age profile of clients receiving SHS assistance varied by geography across Australia in 2020–21 (Figure CLIENTLOC.1):

  • The greatest proportion of child clients (aged 0 to 9 years) occurred in Ipswich (29% of clients) in Queensland and Far West and Orana (26% of clients) in New South Wales.
  • The greatest proportion of young people (aged 15 to 24 years) occurred in Sydney – North Sydney and Hornsby (38% of clients) and Sydney – Sutherland (35% of clients).
  • The greatest proportion of older clients (65 years and over) occurred in South East (6.2% of clients) in Tasmania and Melbourne – North West (6.2% of clients)

Housing situation

Among clients whose housing status was known at the beginning of their first support period in 2020–21, around 111,100 clients presented homeless and 144,500 presented at risk of homelessness to SHS agencies across Australia (Supplementary table CLIENTS.11).

The proportion of homeless and at risk clients varied by geographic region (Figure CLIENTLOC.1):

  • Clients presenting at risk of homelessness to a SHS agency made up the majority (more than 50% of clients where housing situation and SA4 was known) of clients in 59 SA4 regions while clients presenting homeless made up the majority in the remaining 29 SA4s.
  • The highest proportion of clients who started support experiencing homelessness was in Perth - Inner (73% or 1,200 clients) while the highest proportion of clients who started support at risk of homelessness was in Sydney – Inner South West (76% or 1,800 clients).