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ESTIMATING HOMELESSNESS FROM THE CENSUS OF POPULATION AND HOUSING
The definition is described in more detail in the following Chapter.
There is no single variable in the Census which can accurately inform on homelessness. Data item categories such as 'improvised home, tents, sleepers out' and 'no usual address' will include both people who were likely to have been homeless on Census Night and people who were unlikely to have been homeless. For example, people travelling away from home for considerable periods and having no place in which they are likely to stay for six months of more in the year of the Census should correctly report 'no usual address'. People living in a shed as they build their new home will be enumerated as living in 'improvised home, tents, sleepers'. Such variables need to be considered along with other data collected in the Census in determining whether or not a person was likely to have been homeless on Census Night.
Commencing in late 2009 the ABS undertook a review of the methodology used by Professors Chamberlain and MacKenzie to compile their estimates of the homeless population, as published in the ABS Australian Census Analytic Program as Counting the Homeless, 2006 (cat. no. 2050.0). The work by Chamberlain and MacKenzie was ground breaking, and attempted to operationalise their 'Cultural definition of homelessness' using the Census of Population and Housing. This work has been important in informing the ABS approach to operationalising an official definition of homelessness to estimate those people enumerated in the Census that were likely to have been homeless on Census night.
ABS has developed six Homeless Operational Groups in assessing whether people enumerated in the Census were likely to have been homeless on Census night. These groups are:
The first four of the categories are similar to the four groups used by Chamberlain and MacKenzie in their estimates of homelessness developed using Census data.
Estimation for the first four ABS homeless operational groups starts with the concepts and assumptions underlying the Chamberlain and MacKenzie homeless operational groups. ABS tested these assumptions and refined its own estimates to ensure that:
The fifth ABS group 'Persons in other temporary lodging' consists of persons who were classified by Chamberlain and MacKenzie as 'persons in boarding houses'. However these persons, who reported 'no usual address', were enumerated in a 'non-private dwelling' which was classified by its owner or manager as a 'hotel, motel, and bed and breakfast'. These properties were unlikely to have been boarding houses and are included instead in the new ABS group.
People living in severe overcrowding are considered to be in the sixth ABS homeless group because they lack of 'control of and access to space for social relations' (one of the key elements of the ABS definition of homelessness) and are considered not to have accommodation alternatives when remaining in such extreme living arrangements. Severe crowding conditions are operationalised in the Census as living in a dwelling which requires 4 or more extra bedrooms to accommodate the people who usually live there, as defined by the Canadian National Occupancy Standard (CNOS, See Glossary).
The six ABS homeless operational groups compiled from Census data are described in more detail in Chapter 5 Methodology. That chapter also outlines how each group aligns with the ABS statistical definition and what rules are used to operationalise each group.
Estimates of homelessness are important for providing a prevalence of homelessness on Census night and 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 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. Therefore, estimates, compiled from Census data for specific key groups of people who may be marginally housed, but who are not classified as homeless, will be presented alongside estimates of the homeless operational groups in the publication Census of Population and Housing: Estimating Homelessness (cat. no. 2049). Those groups are:
More information about each of these groups, including the rules used to estimate them, are provided in Chapter 5 Methodology.
Later chapters in this Information Paper will cover: