The first phase of the ABS development of a definition of homelessness did not address any specific cultural aspects of a definition relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander conceptualisations of, or experiences with homelessness. The ABS has commenced a second phase of definition work relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander concepts and experiences of homelessness. The results of this definitional work will be released in 2013.
Relevant future ABS data collections will be refined to align, as far as is practical in each case, with the ABS definition. For each data source, the parts of the definition that have been able to be operationalised will be made clear. The operationalisation of the ABS definition using the Census of Population and Housing is outlined in Information Paper - Methodology for Estimating Homelessness from the Census of Population and Housing (cat. no. 2049.0.55.001).
The ABS program of homelessness statistics will expand the information about both people who are currently homeless, people who have previously experienced homelessness, and people who may be at risk of homelessness, as well as presenting a longitudinal views of homelessness. The forthcoming ABS publication Information Paper: Guide to Homelessness Statistics (cat. no. 4923.0), due for release in November 2012, will outline the different sources of homelessness information, how they relate to the ABS definition now and into the future, and how the different information resources can be used together to analyse and better understand homelessness in Australia.
Some of the key ABS datasets for understanding homelessness are outlined below.
As noted, the ABS will shortly release data on homelessness from the 2001 and 2006 Census (11 September 2012) and on 12 November 2012 results from the 2011 Census will be released. These estimates will be published in the publication Census of Population and Housing: Estimating Homelessness (cat. no. 2049.0).
ABS will investigate using its 5% sample of the Australian population captured in its Statistical Longitudinal Census Dataset (SLCD) to undertake longitudinal analysis of the circumstances of those who have been classified as likely to be homeless on Census night. The circumstances of people classified as likely to be homeless in 2011 can then be compared with their circumstances in 2006, and vice versa to look at both antecedents for and situations after an episode of homelessness. Into the future it should be possible to report on aspects of repeat periods of homelessness and long term outcomes as seen in the SLCD, compared with the rest of the population. Further information on the SLCD can be found in Census Data Enhancement Project: An Update, Oct 2010 (cat. no. 2062.0).
Some options for improving both enumeration and estimation in future Censuses have been discussed in the ABS Position Paper (2011b). Another aspect of potential future improvement in homelessness estimation from the Census will be the possible inclusion of new content around, for example, health status, so that the homeless population can be compared with the rest of the population. A longitudinal view through Censuses may therefore be able to be studied in terms of both the pathways into homelessness arising from social factors, and its consequences for other outcomes in later life. The ABS will consider these issues as it progresses the development of the 2016 Census.
ABS Household Surveys
ABS has so far included a module on past periods of homelessness in two surveys, from which a picture of the incidence of homeless can be derived, as well as trends in the homelessness over time, at least for those who have transitioned out of homelessness at the time of interview. The homelessness module has been run in the 2010 General Social Survey and is being run in the 2012 Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers. The module will be improved for use in the 2014 General Social Survey and, once adjusted for cultural appropriateness, will be considered for the next National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey. The ABS has also collected information in the 2012 Personal Safety Survey about where people go when they leave a violent partner, and future developments may expand this information set for later cycles of the survey.
Guided by its Homelessness Statistics Reference Group, 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.