Australian Bureau of Statistics
2049.0 - Census of Population and Housing: Estimating homelessness, 2011
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 12/11/2012
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CONCEPTS AND DEFINITIONS
12 This publication uses the ABS definition of homelessness, operationalised for using data from the Census of Population and Housing. A summary of the definition can be found in Appendix 1: Definition of Homelessness in this publication. For more information also see:
HOMELESS OPERATIONAL GROUPS
13 ABS has developed six homeless operational groups for presenting estimates of people enumerated in the Census who were likely to have been homeless on Census night. These groups are:
14 Detailed listings of the rules used to classify Census data for these groups are included in Appendix 2: Estimation Methodology in this publication. More details on how these groups relate to the definition of homelessness can be found in Information Paper - Methodology for Estimating Homelessness from the Census of Population and Housing (cat. no. 2049.0.55.001).
OTHER MARGINAL HOUSING GROUPS
15 The ABS also compile estimates from Census data for specific key groups of people who may be marginally housed, but who are not classified as homeless. Those groups are:
16 The marginal housing groups are limited to the groups that can be obtained from the Census. Other marginal housing, such as housing with major structural problems or where residents are in constant threat of violence, cannot be obtained from the Census and are therefore not included.
UNDER / OVER-ESTIMATION AND UNDER-ENUMERATION
17 Observing homeless people in any data collection is a challenge, and the homeless circumstance may mean that these people are not captured at all in datasets used to enumerate people generally. Not all homeless people will be enumerated in data sets of those homeless people accessing particular services for the homeless. The 2010 ABS General Social Survey found that, of those who had had an experience of homelessness in the last ten years and who were no longer homeless at the time of interview, only 40% had sought assistance of formal services (see Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2012).
18 While data on people who access services are very important in understanding people who access services, they cannot provide an estimate of the total number of homeless people at one point-in-time. Only the Census offers the opportunity to estimate the number of people who were likely to have been homeless at any one point-in-time.
19 However, there is an inherent imprecision in estimating homelessness using data from the Census of Population and Housing. The Census is not designed to classify people according to whether or not they were homeless on Census night. Variables collected in the Census that were designed for other purposes must be interpreted as proxies for likely homelessness. The ABS methodology includes in its homelessness estimates groups of people who were enumerated in the Census and, on balance, were most likely to have been homeless on Census night.
20 It may be tempting to overestimate homelessness in some groups to compensate for both underenumeration and likely underestimation for some other groups. However, such an approach would result in estimates of characteristics that did not reflect those of the homeless population, including but not limited to their geographic spread. This may result in the misdirection of policy, funds and services. And while a balance between unavoidable underestimation and deliberate overestimation may result, this is unlikely, particularly when there is little information on the magnitude of underestimation. It is also very likely that the scale of any imbalance in error will be very different with each Census, destroying the capacity to monitor change over time. Recognising which groups of homeless people are underestimated in the Census, and using supplementary data sources to understand these groups, will both better address the needs of homeless people, and allow for assessments of change over time in the level of homelessness.
21 ABS recognises that some groups of people are more likely to be underenumerated in the Census. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples' are more likely to be both underenumerated and overrepresented in the homeless population. ABS has developed strategies for each Census aimed at maximising the enumeration of Indigenous persons (see Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2011a).
22 So called rough sleepers and people staying in supported accommodation for the homeless are also at risk of being underenumerated in the Census. The ABS develops a homeless enumeration strategy for each Census, and works with homeless service providers to maximise the enumeration of these groups on Census night (see Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2011b).
23 The ABS Post Enumeration Survey (PES) is used to estimate for the underenumeration of the Australian population in the Census. However it only covers people in private dwellings at the time of the PES, and therefore will not capture homeless people staying in non-private dwellings at the time of the PES but who were missed on Census night. Also the PES does not capture sufficient information to determine whether a person is homeless. Furthermore, the PES is a sample survey and the likelihood of including a homeless person in a private dwelling is low. For all of these reasons the PES cannot be used to estimate underenumeration or under-coverage of homelessness estimates derived from the Census.
KEY POPULATION GROUPS
24 For some key groups, Census variables provide limited opportunity to estimate those likely to be homeless. Three key groups are:
25 The ABS homeless estimates derived from the Census are likely to underestimate the extent of youth homelessness but there are no data available to determine even approximately the magnitude of the underestimation.
26 For some youth (sometimes referred to as 12-18 years or 12-24 years) who are homeless and 'couch surfing', a usual residence may still be reported in the Census. Their homelessness is masked because their characteristics look no different to other youth who are not homeless but are simply visiting on Census night. A usual address may be reported for 'couch surfers' either because the young person doesn't want to disclose to the people they are staying with that they are unable to go home, or the person who fills out the Census form on behalf of the young person staying with them assumes that the youth will return to their home. Homeless youth will be underestimated within the group: 'Persons staying temporarily with other households'.
27 ABS has not been able to establish any reliable way, with existing data sources, of estimating homelessness among youth staying with other households and for whom a usual address is reported in the Census. Service providers and researchers have indicated that the estimates of homeless youth derived from Census data do not concord with their knowledge about youth homelessness but there is no information to know the extent of any divergence. However, some of the views expressed about the prevalence of youth homelessness appear to reflect on the incidence of homelessness i.e. the number of youth who experience homelessness over a year will be many times the number who are homeless at any one point-in-time. For some purposes, particularly early intervention, an incidence measure may be more appropriate to inform on the scale of the issue.
28 Guided by its Homelessness Statistics Reference Group (HSRG), the ABS is continuing to undertake research and development to improve the estimation of homelessness, including youth homelessness. In particular, the ABS has been undertaking a quality study to inform the potential development of a nationally representative homeless school students survey.
29 Until a robust methodology is developed to measure the level of youth homelessness, the ABS will focus on producing transparent, consistent and repeatable estimates that can be used to monitor change over time. Because the ABS methods are transparent, users can assess whether there is any evidence to suggest that the components of homelessness that cannot yet be estimated reliably are likely to be moving differently over time to those elements that can be measured.
30 For analysis on youth homelessness from the 2006 Census see ABS publications: Discussion Paper: Methodological Review of Counting the Homeless, 2006 (cat. no. 2050.0.55.001) and Position Paper - ABS Review of Counting the Homeless Methodology, August 2011 (cat. no. 2050.0.55.002).
Persons displaced due to domestic and family violence
31 The ABS recognises the difficulties in both enumerating people who are displaced from their home due to domestic and/or family violence, and in classifying correctly as either homeless or not homeless all of those who are enumerated on Census night. Those enumerated in supported accommodation for the homeless will be measured. Some who are in boarding houses, staying temporarily with other households, in improvised dwellings or sleeping rough, or staying in other lodgings such as hotels or motels on Census night and who report no usual address will be classified as homeless. However some will not be able to be distinguished from other people who were visitors on Census night.
32 Some people who are displaced due to domestic and family violence may not be enumerated in the Census. Out of fear they may not have themselves recorded on any Census form for the dwelling they are staying in. For those who are reported on a Census form as being away from home on Census night, they may be reluctant, for a number of reasons, including stigma, to report having no usual address on Census night. Alternatively, they may have an expectation that they may be able to return to their home in the future and do not see themselves as not having a usual address. As a result they cannot be distinguished from other people who were visiting on Census night and Census based estimates must be recognised as being an underestimate for this group.
33 The ABS have worked with its HSRG members to look to ways to both improve the enumeration of these homeless people in future Censuses as well as developing alternative sources of information such as the Personal Safety Survey.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians
34 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians have been underenumerated in the Census, and estimates of homelessness based on Census data will therefore be an underestimation. In the 2011 Census, the net undercount rate for Indigenous Australians was 17.2%. Some of those who were underenumerated may have been homeless at the time of the Census.
35 Underestimation of homelessness among those Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians who were enumerated in the Census may occur as, for some Indigenous people, information regarding 'usual residence' may have been provided which masks their homelessness.
36 It is debated in the literature whether the concept of 'no usual address' is appropriate for some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. Morphy (2007) discusses the problems in defining a 'usual resident' and 'visitor' in an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australian context, as the distinction between 'my country / not my country' is more salient than the distinction between 'resident / visitor'. This issue becomes particularly problematic for people who are highly mobile. Chamberlain and MacKenzie (2008) also discuss the relevance of 'no usual address' to the Indigenous population, as the 'usual address' question is approached with a different cultural frame of reference. They note that it is not culturally appropriate to record 'no usual address' on Census night because 'home' is understood in a different way, particularly when Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are staying with their extended family. Due to the different cultural frame of reference for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, it is widely assumed that the Western concept of 'no usual address' is under-reported by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians (Chamberlain and MacKenzie, 2008). This issue will impact on Census based estimates of homelessness among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons enumerated in the Census who are classified as being in the categories of 'improvised dwellings, tents, sleepers out', or temporarily visiting friends or relatives while homeless.
37 In recognition of the differences in understanding of the concepts of home and homelessness in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australian context, the ABS is undertaking further research about how the ABS statistical definition of homelessness may be understood in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australian context. The ABS will establish a sub group of the HSRG to provide recommendations to the HSRG for the development of a definition relevant to homelessness in an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander context. Any recommendations from this group will be considered by the ABS in both Census enumeration and subsequent estimation of homelessness among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. The ABS will also work to develop a culturally appropriate module on previous experiences of homelessness suitable for inclusion in the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey which can be compared to estimates from the total non-Indigenous population from the 2014 General Social Survey.
38 Estimates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander homelessness from the Census should be considered to be an underestimate.
39 For analysis on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander homelessness from the 2006 Census see the ABS publications: Discussion Paper: Methodological Review of Counting the Homeless, 2006 (cat. no. 2050.0.55.001) and Position Paper - ABS Review of Counting the Homeless Methodology, August 2011 (cat. no. 2050.0.55.002).
INTERPRETATION OF THE USUAL RESIDENCE QUESTIONS IN THE CENSUS
40 The 'usual residence' or usual address variable in the Census is designed, for Census purposes, to report on: population characteristics by small area; and to report mobility i.e. of current usual address versus address one and five years ago.
41 Interpretation of Census data on 'usual address' as an approximation to homelessness without reference to other information reported in the Census is incorrect due to the way the question is worded and the intent of the question.
42 The ABS Census asks people to report a usual address. The instructions for reporting are to write in:
43 The advice, if enquired, to people completing the Census form and who move around is that a usual address is somewhere you have lived or intend to live for six months or more, otherwise writing 'none' in the usual address question is the appropriate answer.
44 There are a very wide range of reasons why a person may not have stayed, or be intending to stay, at a particular address for six months or more in a particular Census year. In the 2007-08 Survey of Income and Housing about 16% of household reference persons reported having lived at their current private dwelling address for less than one year, implying that on average, at least 250,000 people change address each month (See Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2009).
45 People will have moved from a former usual address for many reasons, for example moving for study or work, or upon retirement. Some of these movers may be temporarily accommodated in their new city or town, and at the time of the Census, cannot report a future address of the home that they have not yet rented or bought.
46 People who moved in July or August, just before the Census, might report their former home as the place they had lived for at least six months, but may consider it odd to report this old address as their 'usual' address. It is considered unlikely that people report a former usual address as their current usual address after they have permanently left that address, or left it on a long-term basis. The design of the Census 'usual address' question for reporting on mobility, and for supporting population measures, would be undermined if people did report their old usual addresses to which they would not be returning, or not returning for quite some time. By reporting 'no usual address' these people are counted in the population where they are enumerated, and counted as movers from their former usual address.
47 People moving to step up in either the jobs market or the residential property market, or people capitalising on their lifelong residential investment when they retire, may temporarily not own any property while between investments, but are unlikely to experience the forms of social exclusion that affect people who fit a more traditional view of homelessness. For example, as reported in ABC radio interviews, families moving from Queensland to Karratha to rent a slab on which to park their caravan reported that 'the money was just too good to refuse'. Such families would certainly benefit from cheaper housing options in their new area in the long term, either to rent or to add to their holdings of owned premises, but the issues for social inclusion are less likely to reflect the entrenched disadvantage (or risk of such disadvantage) that characterises the homeless population as defined by the ABS definition of homelessness, see Information Paper - A Statistical Definition of Homelessness (cat. no. 4922.0).
48 The ABS uses reporting of 'no usual address' as a starting point to classify anyone who may be homeless, and then refines this broad inclusion by analysing these people to classify, on balance, groups of people who are unlikely to be homeless. The areas of exploration of those reporting 'no usual address' but, on balance, as a group are unlikely to be homeless, include those identified as overseas students in group houses, 'grey nomads' travelling in their caravans after retirement, and a wide range of other people in visitor only households, especially those renting in holiday destinations, and sharing holiday accommodation with other families that do report a usual residence, and recently arrived migrants or residents returning to Australia who, similar to internal migration situations, have not yet had the opportunity to select their permanent home. Some of these people in these groups are clearly not staying with usual residents in a household, while others are staying in a substantial dwelling that they may own in a holiday destination but which may be a second or third home and is not their 'usual residence' in a Census year.
IDENTIFICATION OF NON-PRIVATE DWELLINGS AND PRIVATE DWELLINGS
49 Both non-private dwellings (NPDs) and private dwellings may house people on Census night who may be homeless. NPDs include places such as hotels, motels, staff quarters, boarding houses, prisons, hospitals etc. Given the different context and Census field procedures, different interpretations of Census variables are required for private dwellings and NPDs to determine whether the occupants in the dwelling are, on balance, most likely to be homeless on Census night.
50 Non-private dwellings are initially identified by a Census Area Supervisor and confirmed as such by the owners and managers of those properties. Census collectors may also find a non-private dwelling missed by the Supervisor, and in these cases the usual owner verification is followed. All other dwellings identified as structures which are intended to have people live in them, and which are habitable on Census night, are classified as private dwellings. However, it is possible that some private dwellings may be operated on Census night as illegal boarding houses.
51 The boarding house classification of NPDs by their owners appears to work reasonably well in the field. However, the classification is not designed to only capture boarding houses for the homeless - it also captures dwellings such as regional accommodation serving children from multiple schools, which need to be removed for the purposes of estimating homelessness.
52 If a private dwelling is being operated illegally on the basis of multiple room-by-room tenancies, the Area Supervisor and collector may enumerate it according to its legal and apparent basis of operation as a private dwelling and not as a boarding house. The methodology applies rules for large (apparently) unrelated group households in order to try to identify, and include as homeless accommodation, any private dwellings that may be operating as boarding houses. However, this method is limited in its precision and may overestimate as boarding houses the number of large (apparently) group households due to the limitations of the Census in capturing all relationships in the household.
53 The Census only captures the relationships in relation to the first person listed on the household form, and child relationships to person 2. Therefore, people in the household who are a couple, but neither person has a relationship to person 1, will not be reflected as a couple. Households with five or more usual residents may therefore be firstly incorrectly classified as group households, and secondly then incorrectly be assumed to be a boarding house for the homeless. When a usual resident on Census night is temporarily absent, failure to take this into account can also lead to wrong assumptions about the nature of both the household and the dwelling.
54 By just relying on the NPD classification returned from the field for estimating these populations, it is possible that some supported accommodation dwellings and some illegal boarding houses will be misclassified as private dwellings. The methodology shows how these dwellings are treated, in particular to help ensure that people in 'group houses' are treated correctly.
55 To ensure that people staying in supported accommodation for the homeless are correctly classified, the ABS obtains lists of homeless supported accommodation to correctly flag these dwellings as homeless accommodation. ABS also supplies green stickers to homeless services, who encourage their clients to place the sticker on their Census form and then post their form back to the ABS. The ABS then flags these dwellings as being supported accommodation for the homeless.
56 Some people living in specific living situations in NPDs on Census night are not included in the definition of homelessness. While these living situations lack one or more of the key elements of 'home' identified in the definition of homelessness, the people occupying these places are not regarded as homeless. People in these living situations are not classified as homeless as:
57 The specific exclusions include:
58 The definition of homelessness includes residents of boarding houses as homeless if they:
59 If it is assumed that people living in boarding houses do not have either of these elements and do not have accommodation alternatives, so they are considered homeless.
60 However, some residents of boarding houses have secure tenure and have access to space and privacy. These people would not be considered to be homeless, even if they do not have accommodation alternatives. The Census has some information which allows the ABS to establish whether a dwelling is most likely to be a boarding house. However it does not offer enough information about occupants security of tenure, or their access to space for social relations. Therefore, determining which occupants are homeless is difficult. In the absence of this information, on balance the ABS has included all people in these dwellings who are either usual residents (excluding staff) or visitors reporting no usual address, as homeless. This is likely to result in an overestimate of people who are homeless when assessed against the ABS definition. The ABS does, however, report those in boarding houses as a separate category to aid policy and service provision. This is because in some State and Territories boarding houses are used to move people out of other forms of homelessness, such as rough sleeping or couch surfing, towards more independent, secure, long-term accommodation.
61 Although the ABS makes a significant effort to identify boarding houses, both registered and unregistered, the ABS acknowledge that there will potentially be an underestimation of people living in boarding houses in estimates of homelessness, and an overestimation of those living in boarding houses who are likely to be homeless according to the ABS definition. For more information see Appendix 2: Estimation Methodology.
Supported Accommodation for the Homeless
62 As outlined above, the ABS obtains lists of homeless supported accommodation and uses a 'green sticker strategy'.
63 However, the nature of the provision of accommodation to homeless people in need of housing support services is changing. In the lead up to the next Census, procedures will be reviewed to ensure that people in new forms of supported accommodation are correctly classified. Advice from service providers about clients who are accommodated using vouchers or 'brokerage' in hotels, caravan parks will be used etc to classify them as people in supported accommodation for the homeless.
Transitional Housing Management Units
64 Long-term supported accommodation, often described as Transitional Housing Management (THM) Units, often provides some security of tenure, the dwellings are adequate (including basic kitchen facilities and a bathroom), and the household has privacy and exclusive use of those basic facilities. The THMs that meet these levels of housing, under the ABS definition of homelessness, would not be classified as homeless. However, persons living in those THMs that lack one or more of these elements would be classified as homeless.
65 ABS obtained lists of addresses of supported accommodation from government bodies, individual Specialist Homelessness Services (SHS) providers and umbrella homelessness services organisations. In 2011 ABS also sought information about what type of supported accommodation was provided i.e whether it was crisis or transitional housing etc. Some of the lists ABS received included this extra detail, some did not. As this information is required to make an assessment about the adequacy of the dwelling, THMs have again been included in the homeless operational group 'Persons in supported accommodation for the homeless' in 2011, because the information to classify them more completely in line with the ABS definition is not yet available. The ABS is analysing information received for 2011 to consider ways in which it can be used to better identify and classify occupants of THMs as homeless or otherwise in future Censuses.
66 Census collectors are required to visit 'private' dwellings five times (at different times and on different days) to try to make contact with any people who might be staying in the dwelling on Census night.
67 Where contact cannot be made, collectors are encouraged to speak to neighbours, or a 'credible source' about whether the dwelling was occupied on Census night.
68 If the collector is not 'absolutely certain' that the 'private' dwelling was not occupied on Census night, system imputation follows.
69 No imputation that affects homelessness estimation was undertaken for NPDs (e.g. boarding houses, or supported accommodation as determined by Area Supervisors to be NPDs and their classification described by the owner/manager).
70 No imputation is undertaken for 'rough sleepers', but it is undertaken for improvised dwellings.
71 For the 2011 Census, 690,000 persons were imputed to be in occupied non-contact private dwellings.
72 For about a third of the imputed people (about 252,000), people were imputed where the collector obtained information that there were some people in the dwelling on Census night - the number and sex of the people is obtained. For these records, the collector record book information on dwelling type, structure and location is used, together with the third party reported numbers of people by sex, to find a 'donor' dwelling nearby to replicate the age, sex, usual residence (or 'place of enumeration') and registered marital status of that donor dwelling onto the imputed household in the non-contact dwelling. No other variables are imputed.
73 The remaining two-thirds (438,000 people) where no information could be obtained as to whether or not the dwelling was occupied on Census night, were fully imputed based on looking for a donor record based on dwelling type, structure and location.
74 Imputed records are retained in the estimates of homelessness for the group 'Persons in supported accommodation for the homeless'. While some of these properties were enumerated as NPDs in the 2011 Census, most were enumerated as private dwellings and reassigned a "SAAP" flag based on the lists of properties provided by jurisdictions. In the flagged properties where no contact was made, 1,126 people were imputed using a credible source to confirm the occupation of the dwelling on Census night. Another 1,396 people were imputed without a credible source. While only a third of the national rates of imputation were undertaken with a credible source, for "SAAP" the rate was closer to 50%.
75 For listed "SAAP" properties it is known that the property is not a second home, nor a holiday home or a vacant property up for either sale, demolition or renting etc. And for nearly half of the imputations a credible source is used and no more information is needed to confirm the homeless state of the people in the dwelling on Census night. For the 1,396 or so imputed from a 'donor' record, this estimate may understate or overstate the numbers of homeless people actually in those "SAAP" properties on Census night. However, the scale of any such error is not likely to be large nor biased (an estimation error under 7% of total "SAAP" accommodation on Census night).
76 Imputed records for people staying in non-contact private dwellings that are not "SAAP" flagged populations are excluded from the homeless estimates because there is no certainty about the nature of the dwelling occupancy on Census night (it might be a second home, a holiday home or a vacant property up for either sale, demolition or renting etc.) and no information is available about the characteristics of the occupants to assess their likely homelessness.
ESTIMATES OF PERSONS IN SUPPORTED ACCOMMODATION FOR THE HOMELESS IN 2001
77 While the 'list' and 'green sticker' strategies for SAAP properties were undertaken in the 2001 Census, the information was not retained. Therefore, for 2001 homelessness estimates of persons in supported accommodation for the homeless, the ABS has used data from the AIHW SAAP collection on the number of clients and accompanying children accommodated on Census night for every state and Territory except Victoria. The Department of Human Services (Victoria) provided the ABS with a comprehensive list of their SAAP and THM properties. This was used along with the national SAAP data collection (to establish the number of women in domestic violence services) to provide an overall estimate of number of people in SAAP accommodation for Victoria in 2001.
78 In 2001, the total number of people in the homeless operational group 'Persons in supported accommodation for the homeless' was 13,420.
79 However, the homelessness SAAP estimates for 2001 are only for totals and by state and territory, and no Census demographic characteristics are available. Nor is it possible to remove overlaps between the AIHW based estimate and the other homeless operational groups which can be directly estimated using Census data, which will result in some minor overestimation.
CANADIAN NATIONAL OCCUPANCY STANDARD
80 For both the homeless operational group 'Persons living in severely crowded dwellings', and for the Marginal Housing group of other crowded dwellings just outside the definition of homelessness, the level of crowding is estimated according to the Canadian National Occupancy Standard (CNOS).
81 The concept of crowding is based upon a comparison of the number of bedrooms in a dwelling with a series of household demographics such as the number of usual residents, their relationship to one another, their age and their sex.
82 There is no single standard or measure for housing utilisation, however the CNOS is widely used internationally and the ABS uses it for its measures of crowding. It is a suitable standard for use with Census data because all of the required variables for its calculation are available from the Census, although family coding limits its suitability in large complex family households, and where persons may be temporarily absent on Census night.
83 The CNOS is sensitive to both household size and composition. The measure assesses the bedroom requirements of a household by specifying that:
84 Households living in dwellings where this standard cannot be met are considered to be overcrowded.
Limitations in calculating the CNOS
85 There may be some underestimation associated with the application of the CNOS to Census data. It is not possible to create a CNOS estimate of the number of extra bedrooms needed for households where any key piece of information is missing. This includes the number of persons per dwelling, age of the persons, the relationship in household, and in some cases, where at least one person (who is not the spouse of person 1) is temporarily absent on Census night. CNOS is not able to be determined for imputed records because, for such records, key information such as the number of bedrooms is missing. In addition, there may be cases where usual residents are not recorded on the Census form due to fear by the residents that they may be found to have more residents living in the dwelling than are allowed by their lease agreement.
VISITOR ONLY HOUSEHOLDS
86 For the purposes of homelessness estimation and estimating marginal housing visitor only households are those dwellings where all persons in the dwelling reported no usual address and there were no usual residents.
87 The ABS methodology for estimating homelessness from the Census classifies as homeless those people most likely to be homeless on Census night. People most likely to posses characteristics that present them as 'grey nomads' are not homeless. This exclusion is on the basis that the group is more likely to be travelling for recreation or lifestyle purposes rather than being homeless.
88 'Grey nomads' are defined as people in dwellings where all people in the dwelling were aged 55 years and over, none were in the labour force, they were staying in caravans, cabins or houseboats on Census night, and reported having no usual address. The majority of these 'grey nomads' were enumerated in holiday destinations. This group does not include people who were staying with other households, such as with friends and relatives, nor those who were unemployed or were employed. Some older travellers who were travelling with their children or other younger people were not classified in this 'grey nomad' group because not everyone in the dwelling / household was over 55 years of age.
89 Analysis of 2011 Census data shows that the 'grey nomad' group have almost identical characteristics as in 2006 and 2001. The number of 'grey nomads' increased slightly between 2006 and 2011 by about 500 people, all in the 65 years and over age group.
90 The 2011 analysis continues to support the classification of the 'grey nomad' group as not being homeless and that the established methodology, when applied to the 2011 Census, continues to exclude a group of people most likely to be travelling for recreation or lifestyle purposes rather than being homeless.
RELATIONSHIP STATUS OF VISITORS
91 Relationship information collected on the Census form is only retained for those persons who were usual residents in a dwelling on Census night. It is not possible to present information on the relationships of visiting youth, or persons who reported no usual address, to either the usual residents of the dwelling or to other visitors to the dwelling on Census night. The ABS undertook an investigation on a small random sample of Census records to provide some insight into the likely relationships of visiting youth, and persons reported as having no usual address, to the usual residents of the dwelling and to other visitors.
92 Analysis suggests that over a quarter of youth (persons aged 12-18 years) who reported a usual address elsewhere were visiting a parent (either alone or with other youth). A further 15% were visiting a relative (e.g.. grandparent).
93 Persons who reported no usual address and were visiting a dwelling with at least one usual resident were most commonly visiting a parent, child or partner (30%).
94 For visitor only households, where all the persons reported having no usual address, over two thirds were couples with or without children and a further 10% were mothers with children. It was also found that most of the people in visitor only households were likely to be either on holiday (30%), or own or rent the dwelling they were in (40%).
95 The following paragraphs include additional details on the monetary cut offs used in the homeless methodology for 2011, 2006 and 2001.
96 People aged 15 years and over are asked to report their usual gross income in the Census by selecting an income range (they are not asked to report in actual dollars) before deductions for tax, superannuation contributions, health insurance, amounts salary sacrificed, or any other automatic deductions. Income is generally considered to be understated in Census reporting.
97 As it is not possible to directly aggregate personal incomes reported in ranges, a specific dollar amount is imputed for each personal income range selected by each household member, and these are summed for each household and the result allocated to a household income range.
98 Individual and derived household income levels are used as cut offs in homeless estimation methodology (as outlined in the rules for each of the homeless operational groups), along with other characteristics of the person or household, in determining whether households were more likely to have, on balance, accommodation alternatives.
99 For the 'Boarding house' homeless operational group, an individual income cut off of $600 per week was used in 2011 and 2006 ($400 per week in 2001). If 60% or more of the residents of a dwelling had incomes above this level the dwellings was not likely to be boarding house.
100 For the 'Persons in other temporary lodging' homeless operational group, an individual income cut off of $400 per week was used in 2011 and 2006 ($300 per week in 2001). Any individuals in these dwellings with incomes below this level and also with certain other characteristics was classified as homeless.
101 A household income cut off of $2,000 or more per week in the 2011 and 2006 Census in conjunction with certain tenure types and employment status to ascertain the likelihood of the occupants of a dwelling classified as improvised being construction workers etc rather than as being homeless. For 2001 the household income cut off was $1,594 per week.
102 As with high income, paying relatively high rent is an indication that someone has accommodation alternatives. Mean weekly housing costs, as measured in the 2009-10 ABS Survey of Income and Housing for households renting in the private rental market, was $336 per week. No State, and no capital city recorded an average weekly rent in the private rental market that was above $400 per week. Median weekly rentals in the private rental market were lower than the means, in total and for all States and Territories, except the ACT for which the mean and median were equal (Survey of Income and Housing 2009-10).
103 The cut off for rental payments was set at $400 per week in 2011 ($300 per week in 2006 and $265 per week in 2001).
104 As for income and rent, mortgage payment cut offs were set to a level considered to indicative of accommodation alternatives and above a level of payment that could be afforded by people who were, on balance, most likely to be homeless.
105 The cut off was $1,400 per month in 2011 ($1,050 per month in 2006 and $845 per month in 2001).
RATES PER 10,000 OF THE POPULATION
106 Population rates presented in this publication are presented as a rate per 10,000 of the total population. That is the number of homeless persons per 10,000 persons of the usual resident population in the Census excluding people in external territories, at sea, or in migratory and off shore regions. The table below shows the usual resident population numbers for the 2011, 2006 and 2001 Censuses that have been used as the base in the rate tables.
107 Table 5.6 shows the rate of homelessness per 10,000 of the population for all states and territories in 2011. The rate for the Northern Territory was 730.7 homeless persons per 10,000; higher than for the other states and territories. For all homeless operational groups, except persons in supported accommodation for the homeless, the rates of homelessness per head of population in the Northern Territory are higher than other states and territories. The rates for the operational groups 'Persons in improvised dwellings, tents, sleepers out' and 'Persons living in severely crowded dwellings' show that a higher proportion of the Northern Territory population are in these situations than for other states and territories: 40.0 compared with between 0.8 and 4.1 homeless persons per 10,000 for the improvised dwelling group and 621.8 compared with between 3.7 and 18.6 for those living in severely crowded dwellings.
108 The overall difference in the rate of homelessness for the Northern Territory is therefore driven by the rate for the operational group 'Persons living in severely crowded dwellings'. Nearly 50% of people in this operational group identify as Aboriginal and / or Torres Strait Islander Australians. Compared to other states and territories in Australia, in 2011, the Northern Territory had a higher per capita population of Australians who were identified as Aboriginal and / or Torres Strait Islander. Persons living in severely crowded dwellings also had a higher proportion of persons who identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Australians.
USE OF CENSUS DATA FOR ESTIMATING HOMELESSNESS
Presentation of relationship information
109 In the published estimates of homelessness the ABS has not presented data on relationships between people who are homeless, such as household composition or family composition, except for persons in the homeless operational group 'Persons living in severely crowded dwellings'. Relationship information is not available for all persons who are homeless. Some people in the homeless operational group 'Persons in improvised dwellings, tents, sleepers out' are enumerated on Special Short Forms which do not collect information to the individual respondent's relationship to anyone else. Persons enumerated in NPDs on the Personal Form are not asked to provide information to establish their relationship to anyone else in the dwelling.
110 While information is collected about relationships between visitors and between visitors and other residents of private dwellings this information is not retained in Census processing. Therefore is not available for the operational group 'Persons staying temporarily with other households'. It is, however, possible to present relationship information for the usual residents of the dwelling the person is visiting.
111 For these reasons it is possible only to consider relationship information for those in the homeless operational group 'Persons living in severely crowded dwellings'.
Items not available for 2011 homelessness estimates release
112 The data item 'Remoteness Area' was not available at the time of publishing, and therefore has not been included for use in the analysis of 2011 homelessness estimates in this publication.
Items not collected in 2001
113 The data items 'Core Activity Need for Assistance' and 'Volunteering' were first collected in 2006 and are therefore not available in 2001.
Level of highest educational attainment
114 The classification 'Level of Highest Educational Attainment' shows records the highest educational achievement a person has attained. In this publication, the category 'Below year 10' includes Certificate I and II and Certificate not further defined and those who report no educational attainment.
115 The ABS identified a group of new migrants - these are people who arrived in Australia the Census year and were born overseas who report having no usual address and were enumerated in a private dwelling which was not an 'improvised dwelling, tent or sleeper out'. The vast majority of these new migrants were not considered to be homeless. However, the ABS identified a group of new migrants which are likely to be humanitarian migrants, who in the methodology are classified as homeless.
116 Humanitarian migrants are new migrants who report a country of birth which suggests they could be a recipient of a humanitarian visa. The ABS uses the top 10 countries for humanitarian settlers as published in the table 'Humanitarian Settler Arrivals by Birth Place' in the 'Immigration update' by the Australian Government Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC 2012). The countries used in the methodology are for the financial year ending in the Census year.
117 In 2011 the countries were:
118 The Census of Population and Housing is the largest statistical collection undertaken by the ABS, and one of the most important. Its objective is to accurately measure the number and key characteristics of people in Australia on Census night, and the dwellings in which they live. This provides a reliable basis for the estimation of the population of each of the state, territory and local government areas, primarily for electoral purposes and for the distribution of government funds. The Census also provides the characteristics of the Australian population and its housing within small geographic areas and for small population groups. This information supports the planning, administration, policy development and evaluation activities of governments and other users.
119 The Census is conducted by a Census collector drop-off approach, where Census collectors will deliver, to each dwelling in a clearly bounded local area, materials that allow respondents to complete their form on-line or on paper. The Census collector returns to pick up the forms after Census night unless a completed Census form, either on-line or paper, has been returned to the ABS Data Processing Centre (DPC). In addition, Special collectors are recruited where necessary to undertake Census duties in large NPDs (such as hospitals and hotels) and to enumerate people not in dwellings, such as rough sleepers.
History of the collection of data on homelessness in the Census of Population and Housing
120 The 1996 Census was the first Census to target Australia’s homeless population using a special enumeration strategy. This strategy aimed to not only maximise the coverage of the Australian population but also to provide information from the Census to policy makers and service deliverers on the number and characteristics of homeless people. The ABS has continued to have a special enumeration strategy for the homeless population for subsequent Censuses.
121 In the 2011 Census the ABS employed special enumeration strategies for homeless people and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. In the lead-up to the Census, the ABS liaised with state/territory organisations in order to gain their assistance in correctly identifying accommodation likely to cater for the homeless. Prior to Census night, ABS staff from regional offices contacted groups providing services for the homeless to identify possible sites where homeless people were likely to be located. Where possible, members of the homeless community were to be engaged to enumerate ‘difficult’ areas where significant numbers of homeless people were likely to spend Census night. For more information see Appendix 3: 2011 Census Procedures in this publication.
122 However the ABS has a long history of collecting information relevant to identifying homeless people in the Census. In the 1933 and 1947 Censuses, a question was asked for the ‘number of persons (if any) who slept out throughout the year on verandahs (not enclosed sleep-outs)’. In 1986, a dwelling structure category ‘Improvised dwelling’ was provided on the form for the collector to mark. This category was changed to ‘Improvised home, campers out’ in 1991, but there was no distinction between homeless people and those who were camping (such as on holiday).
123 Questions about the usual residence where a person usually lives provides an indication on homelessness. However, from 1976 until 1991, those who had no usual address were instructed to tick their usual address as ‘this address’. They were classified as having their place of enumeration on Census as their usual address. Since then, the form has an instruction to write ‘none’ if a person does not have a usual address for six months or more in the Census year.
124 From 1976 to 1991, collectors were instructed to seek out all people camping or sleeping out by visiting ‘any places in your Collection District (CD) on Census night where it is likely that persons may be sleeping out, e.g. camping areas, park benches, derelict buildings etc’. They were instructed if they found such a person to issue a Household Form and help them fill it out on the spot. They were assigned to a non-private dwelling type ‘campers out’. However, some collectors may not have followed this instruction if they did not believe there were people in their area, or for fear of their own safety. Prior to 1996, some Divisional Managers undertook additional measures to enumerate the homeless, such as providing refreshments.
Homeless Enumeration Strategy
125 The Homeless Enumeration Strategy employed since 1996 was developed with the aim of ensuring that everyone was enumerated on Census night. The strategy targets those homeless groups that are hard to enumerate through the mainstream Census collection. For more information see Appendix 3: 2011 Census Procedures in this publication.
Response errors and non-response bias
126 Two potential sources of error in the Census are response errors and non-response bias. These may occur in any enumeration whether it is a full enumeration (Census) or a sample.
127 Response errors include errors on the part of respondents. These reporting errors may arise through inappropriate wording of questions, misunderstanding of what data are required, inability or unwillingness to provide accurate information, and mistakes in answers to questions. Some of the response error will reflect people with imprecise knowledge about other residents in their dwelling nevertheless reporting on behalf of others.
128 Non-response bias arises because the persons for whom no response is available may have different characteristics in relation to homelessness and marginal housing than persons who responded in the Census.
129 Response errors and non-response bias are difficult to quantify in any collection. However, every effort is made to minimise these errors in the Census by careful design of questionnaires, intensive training and supervision of Census collectors and efficient operating procedures. Non-response bias is minimised by call-backs to those households which do not respond (see Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2011c).
WHAT CAN THE CENSUS POST ENUMERATION SURVEY TELL US ABOUT HOMELESSNESS ESTIMATES?
130 The quality of the Census data is further enhanced by using information collected in a post-enumeration survey (PES) to obtain estimates of the net undercount in the Census. The PES is conducted immediately following the Census. While the PES collects information representative of the vast majority of Australians, it is not designed to estimate the undercount of persons who may be homeless (as it does not enumerate those who live in special dwellings such as boarding houses, or those who are not living in private dwellings at the time of the PES). It does, however, provide information about the characteristics of people who may have been missed in the Census. It will include some people who were homeless on Census night but were not homeless during the PES, or those who were staying in a private dwelling on Census night such as those people staying with other households.
131 Since the PES does not approach non-private dwellings (nor people sleeping out) it does not generate specific undercount rates for people in those circumstances at the time of the PES. However, the final undercount estimates are weighted to account for the entire population, including those people in non-private dwellings and those who were not in dwellings.
132 Australian Bureau of Statistics (2012) Life After Homelessness, Australian Social Trends, March 2012, Canberra, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Catalogue No. 4102.0.
133 Australian Bureau of Statistics (2011a) Factsheet: Enumeration Procedures for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, Census of Population and Housing, 2011. Retrieved 4 August 2012, from http://www.abs.gov.au/websitedbs/censushome.nsf/home/factsheetsepats?opendocument&navpos=450
134 Australian Bureau of Statistics (2011b) Factsheet: Enumeration Procedures for the Homeless, Census of Population and Housing, 2011. Retrieved 3 August 2012, from http://www.abs.gov.au/websitedbs/censushome.nsf/home/factsheetseph?opendocument&navpos=450
135 Australian Bureau of Statistics (2011c) Factsheet: Non-response Rates, Census of Population and Housing 2011. Retrieved 3 August 2012, from http://www.abs.gov.au/websitedbs/censushome.nsf/home/nonresponserates?opendocument&navpos=440
136 Australian Bureau of Statistics (2011d) Household Income and Income Distribution, 2009-10, Australia, Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics, Catalogue No 6523.0.
137 Australian Bureau of Statistics (2009) Housing Mobility and Conditions, 2007-08, Australia, Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics, Catalogue No 4130.0.55.002.
138 Australian Government Department of Immigration and Citizenship (2012), Immigration Update July - December 2011, DIAC, Canberra, Australia.
139 Chamberlain, C and MacKenzie, D (2008) Counting the Homeless 2006, Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics, Catalogue No. 2050.0.
140 Morphy, F (ed.) (2007) Agency, Contingency and Census Process: Observations of the 2006 Indigenous Enumeration Strategy in remote Aboriginal Australia, Research Monograph, no. 28, Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research ANU, Canberra
141 ABS publications draw extensively on information provided freely by individuals, businesses, governments and other organisations. Their continued cooperation is very much appreciated: without it, the wide range of statistics published by the ABS would not be available. Information received by the ABS is treated in strict confidence as required by the Census and Statistics Act 1905.
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This page last updated 19 December 2013