Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2019) Specialist homelessness services annual report 2017–18, AIHW, Australian Government, accessed 01 July 2022.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2019). Specialist homelessness services annual report 2017–18. Retrieved from https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/homelessness-services/specialist-homelessness-services-2017-18
Specialist homelessness services annual report 2017–18. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 13 February 2019, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/homelessness-services/specialist-homelessness-services-2017-18
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Specialist homelessness services annual report 2017–18 [Internet]. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2019 [cited 2022 Jul. 1]. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/homelessness-services/specialist-homelessness-services-2017-18
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2019, Specialist homelessness services annual report 2017–18, viewed 1 July 2022, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/homelessness-services/specialist-homelessness-services-2017-18
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People with mental health issues are a group who are particularly vulnerable to homelessness. People living with a mental illness can be isolated, have disrupted family and social networks and sometimes suffer poor physical health, all of which impacts their capacity to find and maintain adequate housing. Several studies suggest that when people with mental health issues are supported by homelessness agencies, they are more likely to remain housed rather than returning to homelessness, in particular rough sleeping [1,2,3,4].
Specialist homelessness services (SHS) clients with a current mental health issue are identified as such if they provided any of the following information:
Of the 81,000 clients reporting a current mental health issue in 2017–18:
Of the 81,000 SHS clients who were experiencing mental health issues, over half (54%) were also experiencing additional vulnerabilities (Table MH.1). For example:
These figures provide an insight into the multiple disadvantages clients experiencing mental health issues face and suggest the need for an integrated service response to homelessness for these clients.
Mental health issue
Domestic and family violence
Problematic drug and/or alcohol use
Source: Specialist Homelessness Services Collection 2017–18.
The number of clients presenting with a current mental health issue has been increasing since the beginning of the Specialist Homelessness Services Collection (SHSC) in 2011–12. Various factors, including increased identification, community awareness and reduced stigma, have all potentially driven the increase in self-identification and reporting of mental illness among SHS clients. Key trends identified over the 5 years to 2017–18 include:
Number of clients
Proportion of all clients
Rate (per 10,000 population)
Housing situation at the beginning of the first support period (proportion (per cent) of all clients)
At risk of homelessness
Length of support (median number of days)
Average number of support periods per client
Proportion receiving accommodation
Median number of nights accommodated
Proportion of a client group with a case management plan
Achievement of all case management goals (per cent)
In 2017–18, age and age-related variables were derived using a more robust calculation method. Data for previous years have been updated with the improved calculation method for age. As such, data prior to 2017–18 contained in the SHS Annual Report may not match that contained in the SHS Annual Report Historical Tables.
Source: Specialist Homelessness Services Collection 2013–14 to 2017–18.
At the beginning of support, around half of the clients with a current mental health issue were at risk of homelessness (52% or about 42,100 clients) in 2017–18. A similar proportion (48% or almost 38,900) of clients experiencing a current mental health issue were homeless upon their first presentation to a SHS agency.
The main reasons clients presenting with a current mental health issue sought assistance were: housing crises (25%, or 19,800 clients), domestic and family violence (19%, or 15,200 clients), or inadequate or inappropriate dwelling conditions (11%, or 9,000 clients).
Compared with the general SHS population, clients with a current mental health issue were more likely to identify a need in 2017–18 for:
Of the accommodation services needed by clients with a current mental health issue (Figure MH.1):
Of those clients experiencing a current mental health issue, about 3 in 10 (29% or 23,700) identified a need for mental health-based services. Specifically:
Clients experiencing a current mental health issue were also identified as needing:
These services were needed by clients with a mental health issue at higher rates than the general SHS population (advocacy/liaison services 54%, assistance to sustain tenancy 33% and financial information 25%).
The outcomes presented in this section examine the changes in clients’ housing situations from the start of support to the end of support. Only clients who ceased receiving support by the end of the financial year are included in this section—meaning their support periods had closed and they did not have ongoing support at the end of the 2017–18 reporting period. However, it is important to note that a proportion of these clients may seek assistance from SHS agencies again in the future.
For clients with a current mental health issue (Figure MH.2):
Of those clients who were housed but at risk of homelessness at the beginning of support (that is, living in either public or community housing (renter or rent-free), private or other housing (renter or rent-free), or in institutional settings) (Table MH.2):
Of those clients who were homeless (that is, living either with no shelter or improvised/inadequate dwelling, short-term temporary accommodation, or in a house, townhouse, or flat with relatives (rent-free)) when they began SHS support (Table MH.3):
A challenge for SHS agencies is finding suitable housing options for clients. SHS agencies were able to assist many clients with a current mental health issue to either find or maintain housing, however, consistent with other studies, exiting homelessness for these clients can be difficult .
Source: Specialist Homelessness Services Collection 2017–18, National supplementary table MH.4.
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