Client geography

Key findings

  • The highest rate of SHS clients who were experiencing or at risk of homelessness were in the Northern Territory - Outback (566.1 clients per 10,000 population or 5,700 clients) and Western Australia - Outback (North) (554.7 clients per 10,000 or around 5,400 clients) regions.
  • The lowest rate of clients were in the Sydney - Baulkham Hills and Hawkesbury (14.6 clients per 10,000 population) and Brisbane - West (18.6 clients per 10,000) regions.
  • In more than half of the regions, the majority of SHS clients (whose 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 clients experiencing homelessness was in the Perth - Inner (78%) region and the highest proportion of at risk clients was in the Western Australia - Outback (North) (77%) region.

Where people live can shape their risk and experience of homelessness (Parkinson et al. 2019). In Australia, market changes can influence the availability of housing options within an area (Wood et al. 2014). At September 2023, the national rental vacancy rate was at a record low of 1.1%, in regional areas it was 1.2% and 1.0% in the capital cities (CoreLogic 2023). An insight into the local regions where people lived during their experience of housing instability or homelessness can help inform region-specific policy development and interventions (Semborski et al. 2022). 

This section provides an overview of clients supported by Specialist Homelessness Services (SHS) across Australia based on the client’s location prior to receiving SHS support. The rate at which people access SHS can vary geographically due to service availability and region-specific housing factors such as housing availability and affordability. The rate of SHS clients within a region is an indicator of service response and does not necessarily reflect the total number of people experiencing unstable housing situations within a region.

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 2022–23. Client location is classified to Statistical Area 4 (SA4) based on the 2021 Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS) and are assigned to only one region for the financial year (ABS 2021). The allocated location may not reflect the region of a client’s permanent address, as clients who move may nominate the location of their temporary accommodation rather than their previous more permanent location. 

A total of 88 SA4s are reported in this section, which excludes non-geographic codes and Other Territories. For an analysis of the remoteness of agency location, please see the Service geography section in this report. See Technical notes for more details.

Regional profile of SHS clients

In 2022–23, SHS agencies assisted nearly 273,600 clients across Australia, representing a rate of 105.2 clients per 10,000 population nationally. Across the state and territories, the Northern Territory (404.0) had the highest rate, followed by Victoria (148.4) and Tasmania (116.8), while New South Wale had the lowest rate (83.8) (Supplementary table CLIENTS.1). 

Within the states and territories, the highest rates of SHS clients were in (Supplementary table CLIENTLOC.1):

  1. New South Wales: Far West and Orana (308.8 clients per 10,000 population)
  2. Victoria: North West (299.3)
  3. Queensland: Queensland - Outback (267.3)
  4. Western Australia: Western Australia - Outback (North) (554.7)
  5. South Australia: South Australia - Outback (209.2)
  6. Tasmania: Hobart (126.4)
  7. Northern Territory: Northern Territory - Outback (566.1)

The rate of people receiving SHS services varied by region (Supplementary tables CLIENTLOC.1 and CLIENTS.1):

  • The highest rate of SHS clients were in Northern Territory - Outback (566.1 clients per 10,000 population), this was 1.4 times higher than the rate for Northern Territory (404.0) and 5.4 times higher than the national rate (105.2). 
  • The 4 regions with the highest number of clients were located in Victoria:
    1. Melbourne - West (Victoria) (13,700 clients or 154.1 per 10,000 population)
    2. Melbourne - South East (10,400 clients, or 117.5 per 10,000 population)
    3. Melbourne - Inner (9,000 clients, or 140.9 per 10,000 population)
    4. Latrobe - Gippsland (7,300 clients, or 239.2 per 10,000 population).

Figure CLIENTLOC.1: Clients by age and sex, Statistical Area 4 (SA4), 2022–23

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Across the 88 SA4 regions, females made up the majority of clients in all but five SA4 regions. The regions where male clients made up the majority of clients tended to be the inner-city areas of Australia’s state capitals (Supplementary table CLIENTLOC.1):

  • Sydney - City and Inner South (55%)
  • Melbourne - Inner (53%)
  • Perth - Inner (53%)
  • Adelaide - Central and Hills (52%)
  • Brisbane Inner City (51%).

In contrast, the highest proportion of female clients receiving SHS assistance were in Western Australia - Wheat Belt (77%) and Bunbury (74%) (Figure CLIENTLOC.1). 

The age profile of clients receiving SHS assistance varied by geography across Australia in 2022–23 (Figure CLIENTLOC.1):

  • Areas with high proportions of clients aged 0–9 were Ipswich (28%) and Moreton Bay - North (27%).
  • Areas with high proportions of young clients aged 15–24 were Sydney - Sutherland (37%) and Sydney - Eastern Suburbs (33%).
  • The greatest proportion of older clients (55 years and over) occurred in South East (9.6% of clients) in Tasmania.

Housing situation

Among clients whose housing status and location was known at the beginning of their first support period in 2022–23, around 106,100 clients presented experiencing homelessness to SHS agencies and 125,500 presented at risk of homelessness (Supplementary table CLIENTLOC.1). 

The housing situation of clients varied by geographic region (Figure CLIENTLOC.1): 

  • The top 15 SA4s with the highest number of clients experiencing homelessness accounted for around one-third (34%) of all clients experiencing homelessness. 
  • Clients at risk of homelessness made up the majority (50% or over) of clients in 53 of the 88 SA4 regions.
  • The highest number of clients experiencing homelessness were in Melbourne - Inner (4,200), Melbourne - West (3,900) and Melbourne - South East (3,400).
  • The highest proportion of clients presenting experiencing homelessness was in Perth - Inner (78% or 1,600 clients); the highest proportion of clients presenting at risk of homelessness was in Western Australia - Outback (North) (77% or 4,100 clients).