Glossary and abbreviations

Concept Definition

Accommodation services

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
  • domestic/family 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.


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.

Client with a current mental health issue

SHS clients with a current mental health issue are identified as such if they have provided any of the following information:

  • they indicated that at the beginning of a support period they were receiving services or assistance for their mental health issues or had in the last 12 months
  • their formal referral source to the specialist homelessness agency was a mental health service
  • they reported 'mental health issues' as a reason for seeking assistance
  • their dwelling type either a week before presenting to an agency, or when presenting to an agency, was as a psychiatric hospital or unit
  • they had been in a psychiatric hospital or unit in the last 12 months
  • at some stage during their support period, a need was identified for psychological services, psychiatric services or mental health services.

Client with a disability

SHS clients with a disability are identified as such if at any time they have provided the following information:

  • they 'always/sometimes need help or supervision' with self-care, mobility or communication for any support period during the reporting period.

The definition used to identify clients with a disability (for the purposes of analyses for this report) is similar to that used for ABS Census questions that measure 'core activity need for assistance'. The Census questions are a simplified version of the comprehensive questions used in the ABS Survey of Disability and Carers (SDAC). The Census's simplified questions are conceptually comparable with 'severe or profound core activity limitation' in the SDAC.

The ABS Census aims to identify people who need assistance in their day-to-day lives with any or all of the following core activities: self-care, mobility or communication (ABS 2012b). The SHSC takes a similar approach in gathering information from clients of specialist homelessness services about disability.

To align with the ABS definition of 'core activity need for assistance', clients who did not report needing assistance (such as 'have difficulty but don't need help/supervision' or 'don't have difficulty, but use aids/equipment') with self-care, mobility or communication are not included as clients needing assistance with disability for SHS analyses.

Disability measurement in the SHSC

Measuring disability in the SHSC.

A long-term health condition is one that has lasted, or is expected to last, 6 months or more. Examples of long-term health conditions that might restrict everyday activities include severe asthma, epilepsy, mental health conditions, hearing loss, arthritis, autism, kidney disease, chronic pain, speech impediment and stroke.

Disability is a general term that covers:

• impairments in body structures or functions (for example, loss or abnormality of a body part)

• limitations in everyday activities (such as difficulty bathing or managing daily routines)

• restrictions in participation in life situations (such as needing special arrangements to attend work).

The SHSC collects information on whether and to what extent a long-term health condition or disability restricts clients' everyday activities across the following 3 life areas:

• Self-care—the client needs help/supervision with self-care (e.g. showering or bathing, dressing or undressing, using the toilet or eating food)

• Mobility—the client needs help/supervision with mobility (e.g. moving around the house, moving around outside the home, or getting into or out of a chair)

• Communication—the client needs help/supervision with communication (e.g. understanding or being understood by other people, including people they know).


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
  • 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.

Based on the ABS definition, the state of a person who does not have suitable accommodation alternatives and whose current living arrangement:

  • is in a dwelling that is inadequate (is unfit for human habitation or lacks basic facilities such as kitchen and bathroom facilities), or
  • has no tenure, or if their initial tenure is short and not extendable, or
  • does not allow them to have control, and access to space for social relations (including
  • personal―or household―living space, ability to maintain privacy and exclusive access to kitchen and bathroom facilities) (ABS 2012c).

Note: 'Homelessness' can be defined in different ways for different purposes.

The measurement of Homelessness in the SHSC is defined in the Data derivation section.

Other support services

Other support services refer to the assistance, other than accommodation services, provided to a client. Includes domestic/family 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.

Specialist homelessness agency

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

Specialist homelessness service(s)

Specialist homelessness service(s) is 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, domestic/family 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.



Australian Bureau of Statistics


Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute


Australian Institute of Health and Welfare


Care and Protection Order


Department of Social Services


National Affordable Housing Agreement


National Disability Insurance Scheme


National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness


Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers


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