Accommodation services include short-term or emergency accommodation, medium-term/transitional housing, assistance to obtain long term housing, assistance to sustain tenancy or prevent tenancy failure or eviction and assistance to prevent foreclosures or for mortgage arrears.

At risk of homelessness: A person is described as at risk of homelessness if they are at risk of losing their accommodation or they are experiencing one or more of a range of factors or triggers that can contribute to homelessness.

Risk factors include:

  • financial stress (including due to loss of income, low income, gambling, change of family circumstances)
  • housing affordability stress and housing crisis (pending evictions/foreclosures, rental and/or mortgage arrears)
  • inadequate or inappropriate dwelling conditions, including accommodation that is unsafe, unsuitable or overcrowded
  • previous accommodation ended
  • relationship/family breakdown
  • child abuse, neglect or environments where children are at risk
  • sexual abuse
  • family/domestic violence
  • non-family violence
  • mental health issues and other health problems
  • problematic alcohol, drug or substance use
  • employment difficulties and unemployment
  • problematic gambling
  • transitions from custodial and care arrangements, including out-of-home care, independent living arrangements for children aged under 18, health and mental health facilities/programs, juvenile/youth justice and correctional facilities
  • discrimination, including racial discrimination (e.g. Aboriginal people in the urban rental market)
  • disengagement with school or other education and training
  • involvement in, or exposure to, criminal activities
  • antisocial behaviour
  • lack of family and/or community support
  • staying in a boarding house for 12 weeks or more without security of tenure.

The measurement of this concept in the SHSC is defined in the Data derivation section within the Specialist homelessness services annual report.

Confidence interval: A statistical term describing a range (interval) of values within which we can be ‘confident’ that the true value lies, usually because it has a 95% or higher chance of doing so.

Client: A Specialist homelessness agency client is a person who receives a specialist homelessness service. A client can be of any age. Children are also clients if they receive a service from a specialist homelessness agency. To be a client the person must directly receive a service and not just be a beneficiary of a service. Children who present with an adult and receive a service are considered to be a client. Children of a client or other household members who present but do not directly receive a service are not considered to be clients.

General services include:

  • family/relationship assistance
  • assistance for incest/sexual assault
  • legal information
  • material aid/brokerage
  • financial information
  • educational assistance
  • training assistance
  • employment assistance
  • assistance to obtain/maintain government allowances
  • assertive outreach for rough sleepers
  • child care
  • assistance for trauma
  • assistance for challenging social/behavioural problems
  • living skills/personal development
  • court support
  • advice/information
  • retrieval/storage/removal of personal belongings
  • advocacy/liaison on behalf of client
  • school liaison
  • structured play/skills development
  • child contact and residence arrangements
  • meals
  • laundry/shower facilities
  • recreation
  • transport and
  • other basic assistance. 

Historical clients received SHS support in the retrospective and defining study periods.

Homelessness: for the purpose of the SHSC a person is defined as homeless if they are living in either:

  • non-conventional accommodation or ‘sleeping rough’, or
  • short-term or emergency accommodation due to a lack of other options.

Non-conventional accommodation (primary homeless) is defined as:

  • living on the streets
  • sleeping in parks
  • squatting
  • staying in cars or railway carriages
  • living in improvised dwellings
  • living in the long grass.

This definition aligns closely with the cultural definition of primary homelessness.

Short-term or emergency accommodation (secondary homeless) includes:

  • refuges
  • crisis shelters
  • couch surfing or no tenure
  • living temporarily with friends and relatives
  • insecure accommodation on a short-term basis
  • emergency accommodation arranged by a specialist homelessness agency (for example, in hotels, motels and so forth).

This definition aligns closely with the cultural definition of secondary homelessness.
The measurement of Homelessness in the SHSC is defined in the Data derivation section within the Specialist homelessness services annual report.
The ABS definition of homelessness for estimates derived from the Census of Population and Housing can be found in ABS catalogue 2049.0 (ABS 2012a).

Logistic modelling: A statistical technique that identifies significant relationships between variables (characteristics or factors) and an outcome, after simultaneously accounting for the confounding effects of other factors. Logistic regression is a form of statistical modelling that is often used for categorical response variables, especially binary variables. It describes the relationship between the probability that the response variable belongs to a particular category and a set of explanatory variables. The explanatory variables in logistic regression can be categorical or continuous. 

Long-term clients received SHS support in all three study periods.

Not employed: Unemployed or not in the labour force.

Odds ratio: A measure of association between an exposure (such as client characteristics) and an outcome (such as ongoing SHS support). The odds ratio (OR) represents the odds that an outcome will occur given a particular exposure, compared to the odds of the outcome occurring in the absence of that exposure. An OR greater than 1 indicates that the odds of the outcome occurring are greater in the cohort group, when compared to the non-cohort group. Conversely, an OR less than 1 indicates lower odds of the outcome occurring and an OR equal or close to 1 indicates that the odds of the outcome occurring are the same between the cohort’s groups.

Ongoing clients: Ongoing clients received SHS support in the defining and prospective study periods.

Other support services: refer to the assistance, other than accommodation services, provided to a client. They include family/domestic violence services, mental health services, family/relationship assistance, disability services, drug/alcohol counselling, legal/financial services, immigration/cultural services, other specialist services and general assistance and support.

Risk: The probability of an event occurring during a specified period of time.

Relative risk: This measure is derived by comparing two groups for their risk of an event. It is also called the risk ratio because it is the ratio of the risk in the ‘exposed’ divided by the risk in the ‘unexposed’. Relative Risk is calculated by dividing the risk of an event occurring for group 1 by the risk of an event occurring for group 2.

Short-term clients received SHS support only during the defining study period.

Specialist homelessness agency: an organisation which receives government funding to deliver specialist homelessness services to a client. These can be either not-for-profit or for profit agencies.

Specialist homelessness service(s): assistance provided by a specialist homelessness agency to a client aimed at responding to or preventing homelessness. The specialist homelessness services in scope for this collection include accommodation provision, assistance to sustain housing, family/domestic violence services, mental health services, family/relationship assistance, disability services, drug/alcohol counselling, legal/financial services, immigration/cultural services, other specialist services and general assistance and support.

Abbreviations and symbols



Australian Bureau of Statistics


Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute


Australian Institute of Health and Welfare


Family and Domestic Violence


National Affordable Housing Agreement


National Disability Insurance Scheme


National Housing and Homelessness Agreement


National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness


Specialist Homelessness Services


Specialist Homelessness Services Collection


Statistical Linkage Key


nil or rounded to zero

. .

not applicable


not available


not publishable because of small numbers, confidentiality or other concerns about the quality of the data