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 on a care and protection order
SHS clients are identified as being on a care and protection order if they are aged under 18 and provided any of the following information in any support period (any month within the support period) during the reporting period (either the week before, at the beginning of the support period or during support).
They reported that they are on a care and protection order and that they had the following care arrangements:
- residential care
- family group home
- relatives/kin/friends who are reimbursed
- foster care
- other home-based care (reimbursed)
- relatives/kin/friends who are not reimbursed
- independent living
- other living arrangements
- parents; or
- They have reported ‘Transition from foster care/child safety residential placements’ as a reason for seeking assistance, or main reason for seeking assistance.
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 problematic drug and/or alcohol use
SHS clients with a current problematic drug and/or alcohol use are identified as such if they are 10 years or older and have provided any of the following information:
- their dwelling type was recorded as rehabilitation.
- their formal referral source to the specialist homelessness agency was a drug and alcohol service.
- during their support they required drug/alcohol counselling.
- they have been in a rehabilitation facility/institution in the last 12 months.
- they have reported 'problematic drug or substance abuse' or 'problematic alcohol use' as a reason for seeking assistance or main reason for seeking assistance.
Client with disability
SHS clients with severe or profound 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 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 with severe or profound 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).
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
- retrieval/storage/removal of personal belongings
- advocacy/liaison on behalf of client
- school liaison
- structured play/skills development
- child contact and residence arrangements
- laundry/shower facilities
- transport and
- other basic assistance.
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
- 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:
- 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.
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).
Other support services
Other support services refer to the assistance, other than accommodation services, provided to a client. They include 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 or 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.
Stable housing, for the purpose of the SHSC, refers to clients ending support in public or community housing (renter or rent free), private or other housing (renter, rent free or owner), or Institutional settings.