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2049.0 - Census of Population and Housing: Estimating homelessness, 2006  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 11/09/2012   
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SUMMARY OF FINDINGS


INTRODUCTION

Homelessness is not just the result of too few houses. Its causes are many and varied. Domestic violence, a shortage of affordable housing, unemployment, mental illness, family breakdown and drug and alcohol abuse all contribute to the level of homelessness in Australia (FaHCSIA, 2008a).

Homelessness is not a choice.

People who are homeless are among the most marginalised people in Australia. Homelessness is one of the most potent examples of disadvantage in the community, and one of the most important markers of social exclusion (Department of Human Services, 2002). To have a socially inclusive Australia, all Australians must have the capabilities, opportunities, responsibilities and resources to learn, work, engage and have a say (Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, 2012). Homelessness freezes people out of opportunities that most Australians enjoy (FaHCSIA, 2008b).

Effective targeting of policies and services for reducing homelessness and allowing all Australians to participate in society requires transparent, consistent and repeatable statistics. However, people who are homeless are among the most difficult to collect statistics from.

This publication presents estimates of the number of people enumerated in the Census who were most likely to have been homeless on Census Night, 8 August 2006 as well as estimates of homelessness on Census Night in 2001. Not withstanding the limitations of the Census variables for the analysis of homelessness, the estimates presented in this publication have been compiled on a transparent and generally consistent basis so that they can be compared over time to track increases or decreases in homelessness. Any unavoidable inconsistencies in methodology are described and broadly quantified so that users can understand any limitations in comparisons over time.

The estimates of the characteristics and living arrangements of those who were most likely to have been homeless on Census Night also provide a picture of the nature and changing composition of the homeless population.

This publication also presents Census based estimates for people in some marginal housing categories that are close to the boundary of homelessness to present homelessness within a continuum of marginal housing living situations.

Whilst homelessness itself is not a characteristic that is directly measured in the Census, estimates of the homeless population may be derived from the Census using analytical techniques based on both the characteristics observed in the Census and assumptions about the way people may respond to Census questions. An overview of the ABS methodology for estimating homelessness from the Census is provided in the Feature Article: Methodology used to Calculate Homeless Estimates. For more information, see Information Paper - Methodology for Estimating Homelessness from the Census of Population and Housing (cat. no. 2049.0.55.001).

The ABS' statistical definition of homelessness underpins the methodology used to compile the ABS estimates of homelessness. An overview of the definition is provided in the Feature article: Overview of the Definition of Homelessness. For more information on the definition see Information Paper - A Statistical Definition of Homelessness (cat. no. 4922.0).


HOMELESSNESS

In August 2006, the Census of Population and Housing enumerated 19.9 million people living in Australia. Of these, 89,728 persons are classified as being homeless on Census Night (0.5% of the Australian population). That is, for every 10,000 persons that were counted in Australia, there were 45.2 persons homeless on the night of the 2006 Census.


HOMELESSNESS OPERATIONAL GROUPS

Six homeless operational groups are used to present the Census based homelessness statistics, cross classified with demographic and socio-economic characteristics (see Table below). The six groups are:

  • Persons who are in improvised dwellings, tents, sleepers out
  • Persons in supported accommodation for the homeless
  • Persons staying temporarily with other households
  • Persons staying in boarding houses
  • Persons in other temporary lodging
  • Persons living in severely crowded dwellings

The largest group within the homeless population were people living in severely crowded dwellings (35%) (i.e. usual residents of the dwelling which needed four or more extra bedrooms to accommodate them adequately using the Canadian National Occupancy Standard (CNOS) - see Explanatory Notes for more information on the CNOS).

Homeless persons staying temporarily in other households and who reported no usual address accounted for 20% of the homeless population. This group not only includes homeless people staying with friends and relatives on Census Night but also includes people who were homeless in 'visitor only' households, that is no-one in the dwelling usually lived in that dwelling. Some groups, in particular youth, those escaping domestic and family violence and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians are likely to be underestimated, because despite their homelessness, a usual address was reported for them and therefore they cannot be distinguished from people who were visitors on Census Night and who were not homeless.

Similar proportions of homeless people were classified as staying in supported accommodation (19%) (see Glossary for more information on the Supported Accommodation Assistance Program) and in boarding houses (17%). Only 8% of homeless persons were in improvised dwellings, tents or sleepers out and 1% were in other temporary lodgings on Census Night.

1.1 Persons by homeless Operational Groups, 2006

Homeless Operational Groups
no.
%

Persons who are in improvised dwellings, tents or sleepers out
7 247
8.1
Persons in supported accommodation for the homeless
17 329
19.3
Persons staying temporarily with other households
17 663
19.7
Persons staying in boarding houses
15 460
17.2
Persons in other temporary lodging
500
0.6
Persons living in 'severely' crowded dwellings
31 531
35.1
All homeless persons
89 728
100.0




RATES OF HOMELESS PERSONS PER 10,000 PERSONS

States and Territories

In 2006, there were similar rates of homelessness in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory (ranging from 29.3 to 37.0 homeless persons per 10,000 persons) while Tasmania had the lowest rate in Australia (24.0 per 10,000 persons). Higher rates of homeless were in Western Australia (42.3 per 10,000) and Queensland (48.3 per 10,000), with the highest rate in the Northern Territory (791.7 per 10,000 persons). In the Northern Territory, 84% of the homeless were in severely crowded dwellings, while severe crowding in the other States and Territories ranged from 8% of the homeless in the ACT to 36% in WA.

1.2 Rate of homelessness per 10,000 persons by State/Territory, 2006

States and Territories
Rate of homelessness per 10,000 persons

New South Wales
33.9
Victoria
35.3
Queensland
48.3
South Australia
37.0
Western Australia
42.3
Tasmania
24.0
Northern Territory
791.7
Australian Capital Territory
29.3
Australia
45.2



There were 3.7 homeless persons per 10,000 persons who were in improvised dwelling, tents or sleepers out in 2006. However in the Northern Territory the rate was 62.9 per 10,000 persons, and the next highest rates were in Queensland (5.2 per 10,000 persons) and Western Australia (5.2 per 10,000 persons).


AGE

60% of homeless persons were aged under 35 years. Those aged under 12 years and those aged 25-34 years each accounted for 18% of all homeless persons. All age groups under 35 years were over-represented in the homeless population compared to their proportion of the total population. For example, while 19-24 year olds account for 8% of the total population, they make up 14% of the homeless population (see Graph below). Although youth are over-represented in the homeless population, homeless estimates for youth (particularly those aged 12-18 years) are likely to have been underestimated in the Census due to a usual address being reported for some homeless youth (see Explanatory Notes and Information Paper - Methodology for Estimating Homelessness from the Census of Population and Housing (cat. no. 2049.0.55.001) for more information).

Persons aged 35-44 years made up 15% of the homeless population, while 12% were aged 45-54 years. Those aged 45 years and over were underrepresented in the homeless population, when compared with the total population of the same age.

1.3 Proportion of population by age, Australian and Homeless Populations - 2006 (a)
Graph: 1.3 Proportion of population by age, Australian and Homeless Populations—2006 (a)



Youth

Most of the homeless youth aged 12-18 years were in severely crowded dwellings (51%) or in supported accommodation for the homeless (28%). There were similar proportions for homeless children under 12 years of age, with 54% in severely crowded dwellings and 29% in supported accommodation.

While 10% of homeless people aged 12-18 years were staying temporarily with other households, this rate jumps to 21% for youth aged 19-24 years. As previously noted, homeless youth staying with other households are likely to have been under-estimated (see Explanatory Notes for more information).


Within homeless operational groups

When looking within the homeless operational groups, over half of all homeless persons in improvised dwellings, tents or sleepers out were aged 25-54 years (55%), and 26% were aged under 25 years.

Among homeless persons staying temporarily with other households, 51% were aged 25-54 years, compared with 30% for persons aged under 25 years and 18% for those aged 55 years and over.

57% of homeless persons in boarding houses were aged 25-54 years.


SEX

Over half of the homeless population were men (57%). Women were over-represented in supported accommodation (50%), despite only comprising 43% of the homeless population. Three times as many men were in boarding houses than women (76% and 24%), and men were much more likely to be in improvised dwellings, tents and sleepers out (64% compared with 36%).


ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER AUSTRALIANS

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples made up 2.3% of the Australian population in 2006 (454,771 persons). However, Aboriginal and / or Torres Strait Islander persons comprised nearly 30% of all persons classified as homeless on Census Night (25,950). Of those who were classified as homeless, 75% were living in severely crowded dwellings, 10% were in supported accommodation for the homeless and 8% were in improvised dwellings, tents, sleepers out. For non-Indigenous homeless persons, 20% were living in severely crowded dwellings, 20% were in supported accommodation, and 8% were in improvised dwellings, tents, sleepers out.

The estimate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians who were homeless on Census Night is likely to be an underestimate, particularly for those staying temporarily with other households, for two reasons:
  • there is relatively large under enumeration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons in the Census; and
  • some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians will report a usual address that is associated with a 'place' rather than with a home or dwelling. Some of these people will not have a usual residence and be homeless (see Discussion Paper: Methodological Review of Counting the Homeless, 2006 (cat. no. 2050.0.55.001) for more details).


REMOTENESS

The majority of homeless persons were in major cities of Australia on Census Night 2006 (52%). 75% of persons in boarding houses, and 72% of those in supported accommodation were in major cities.

24% of the homeless population were in remote and very remote Australia. While persons classified in the majority of all homeless operational groups were most likely to be in major cities of Australia, 47% of homeless persons living in severely crowded dwellings were living in very remote Australia.


CHANGES IN HOMELESSNESS BETWEEN 2001 AND 2006

In 2001, 95,314 persons were classified as homeless on Census Night. Between 2001 and 2006, the number of people who were homeless on Census Night declined by 5,586 persons (6%) to 89,728 persons. The fall in the boarding house population (down 5,840) drove the overall decline in homelessness.

The rate of homelessness per 10,000 of the Australian population declined from 50.8 in 2001 to 45.2 in 2006.

In both 2001 and 2006, the largest group within the homeless population was people living in severely crowded dwellings (35% in both years). The proportion of homeless people who were in improvised dwellings, tents, sleepers out decreased slightly from 9% to 8%. The proportion of people in boarding houses fell from 22% in 2001 to 17% in 2006. The proportion of homeless people who were in supported accommodation for the homeless (or SAAP) increased from 14% in 2001 to 19% in 2006, while the proportion who were staying with other households rose slightly (from 19% in 2001 to 20% in 2006).

While the same methodology was used to estimate homelessness for 2001 and 2006, there are some minor differences between 2001 and 2006.

In 2006, Census data were used to estimate the number of people who were in SAAP on Census Night. For 2001, administrative data were used as unfortunately, the Census flags for SAAP were not retained. This means that some minor overlap between SAAP and other homeless operational groups cannot be removed and a small number of people may have been counted twice in the 2001 homeless estimates.

In addition, in 2001 imputed persons could not be removed from the homeless estimates as it was not possible to identify which records had been imputed. This will have resulted in a small number of imputed persons being included in the homeless estimates for 2001, particularly in the 'staying with other households' operational group.

In 2006, core activity restriction and volunteering were used to improve the estimates of the number of people in boarding houses. These variables were not available in 2001, and as a result, 2001 may included a small number of people in accommodation for the disabled and volunteers.


OTHER MARGINAL HOUSING

Estimates of homelessness are important for providing a point-in-time prevalence measure of homelessness on Census Night and to understand the characteristics of those who were likely to have been homeless. However, there are people whose living arrangements are close to the statistical boundary of homelessness, and who may be at risk of homelessness. Estimates of such people who may be at risk of homelessness can be used to assist policy and service delivery to prevent people becoming homeless. The following section describes the groups who may be marginally housed and at risk of homelessness, as estimated using Census data. 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.

The marginal housing groups are:
  • Persons living in other crowded dwellings
  • Persons in other improvised dwellings
  • Persons who are marginally housed in caravan parks.


Persons in other crowded dwellings

Persons living in other crowded dwellings, who fall short of being classified as severely overcrowded, are usual residents in dwellings that need three extra bedrooms to adequately accommodate them according to the CNOS.

In 2006 there were 43,149 people living in other crowded dwellings. The rate of persons living in other crowded dwellings per 10,000 persons was 21.7. The rate was highest in the Northern Territory (238.6 per 10,000 persons) followed by New South Wales (22.5 per 10,000) and Queensland (21.3 per 10,000).

1.4 Proportion of persons living in other crowded dwellings by State or Territory - 2006
Graph: 1.4 Proportion of persons living in other crowded dwellings by State or Territory—2006


Age

The age distribution of the overcrowded marginally housed group shows that they were concentrated in the younger age groups, with a large proportion under the age of 12 years (24%).

1.5 Age distribution of people living in other crowded dwellings - 2006
Graph: 1.5 Age distribution of people living in other crowded dwellings—2006


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians were over-represented in other crowded marginal housing - 25% of those in dwellings requiring three extra bedrooms were Indigenous in 2006.

Education participation

While the majority of people in the overcrowded marginally housed group were not studying (55%), 11% were attending tertiary institutions.

Remoteness

The majority of people living in other crowded dwellings were in major cities (62%), with a substantial number (14%) also living in very remote Australia.

1.6 Proportion of Persons living in other crowded dwellings by Remoteness Area - 2006
Graph: 1.6 Proportion of Persons living in other crowded dwellings by Remoteness Area—2006


Country of birth and proficiency in spoken English

61% of people residing in dwellings requiring three extra bedrooms were born in Australia. A substantial proportion of this marginal group were born in South-East Asia (9%), and Southern and Central Asia (8%), and 12% of people living in other crowded dwellings reported their proficiency in spoken English as 'not speaking English well' or 'not speaking any English'.


Persons in other improvised dwellings

Persons in other improvised dwellings are people who were enumerated on Census Night in the dwelling category of 'improvised home, tent, sleepers out' (see Explanatory Notes for more detail on improvised dwellings, tents and sleepers out) who reported either being 'at home' on Census Night or having no usual address but are not included in the homeless group 'Persons in improvised dwellings, tents, sleepers out'. On balance, persons in other improvised dwellings are unlikely to be homeless according to the ABS definition as they were likely to have access to accommodation alternatives. And in some situations, despite the dwelling classification, the dwelling may have been adequate. This group includes people such as owner-builders, hobby farmers, and construction workers, road workers etc. Some in this group may, however, be more vulnerable to experiencing homelessness in the future and have therefore been classified as marginally housed.

There were 7,724 people living in other improvised dwellings on Census Night in 2006. There was a slightly higher proportion of males (57%) than females (43%) in this group.

The rate per 10,000 persons for persons in other improvised dwellings was 3.9, with 14.7 per 10,000 persons in the Northern Territory.

1.7 Proportion of people living in other improvised dwellings by State and Territory - 2006
Graph: 1.7 Proportion of people living in other improvised dwellings by State and Territory—2006


Age

The age distribution of those in other improvised dwellings shows that 18% were aged 35-44 years and 18% were aged 45-55 years. There was also a substantial proportion of people under the age of 12 years (15%).

1.8 Age Distribution of people living in other improvised dwellings - 2006
Graph: 1.8 Age Distribution of people living  in other improvised dwellings—2006


Remoteness

As expected, given the characteristics of those persons in other improvised dwellings who were most likely to be owner-builder, hobby farmers, construction workers, road workers etc.), they were most likely to be located in inner regional (38%) and outer regional (32%) areas of Australia.

1.9 Proportion of Persons in other improvised dwellings by remoteness - 2006
Graph: 1.9 Proportion of Persons in other improvised dwellings by remoteness—2006



Persons marginally housed in caravan parks

Persons marginally housed in caravan parks are those people considered to be in marginal housing and at risk of homelessness. However not all persons living in caravan parks are considered to be marginally housed. For example, those living in cabins (which are not separately identified in Census data) rather than caravans will have access to their own kitchen facilities and bathroom and therefore are not considered to be marginally housed. Others living in caravan parks on a long-term basis have an element of security of tenure and, for some people, they have chosen to reside in a caravan park due to convenience, cost or location and could select other accommodation alternatives if they wished.

People living in caravan parks are classified as being marginally housed if characteristics are indicative of personal circumstances in which access to accommodation alternatives is unlikely. These include people enumerated on Census Night in 2006 who were:
  • in caravan, cabin or houseboat in a caravan / residential park or camping ground who reported being at home on Census Night; and where:
      • no usual resident reported working full-time;
      • the dwelling was being rented for less than $300 per week;
      • the landlord was not reported as an employer;
      • the dwelling had less than three bedrooms; and
      • the combined weekly income of the persons in the dwelling was less than $2,000.

The majority of the 12,444 people identified as being marginally housed in caravan parks in 2006 were male (64%), which was higher than in other marginally housed people (52% in other crowded dwellings, and 57% in other improvised dwellings) and higher than in the homeless population (57%).

The rate per 10,000 persons for persons marginally housed in caravan parks was 6.3 in 2006. The State with the highest rate was Queensland (11.2 per 10,000 persons) followed by the Northern Territory (8.1 per 10,000 persons).

1.10 Proportion of Persons Marginally Housed in Caravan Parks by State and Territory - 2006
Graph: 1.10 Proportion of Persons Marginally Housed in Caravan Parks by State and Territory—2006


Age

Of the persons marginally housed in caravan parks, 12% were aged under 19 years and 21% were of retirement age (aged 65 years and over).

1.11 Age distribution of people marginally housed in caravan parks - 2006
Graph: 1.11 Age distribution of people marginally housed in caravan parks—2006


Remoteness

Most of the persons marginally housed in caravan parks were living in major cities and inner regional areas (39% respectively), with the proportion decreasing as remoteness increases.

Country of birth

The majority of people marginally housed in caravan parks were born in Australia (72%), and 9% were born in North-West Europe.

Need for assistance with core activities

Consistent with the older age of persons marginally housed in caravan parks, 8% reported having a need for assistance with core activities. Need for assistance with core activities restriction questions were not answered by 11% of this marginally housed group.


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