New report looks at homeless in Australia, Dec 1999

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december 2, 1999
Embargoed: 11:30 AM (AEST)
New report looks at homeless in Australia

A landmark research report released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates that on 6 August 1996 there were 105,304 homeless people in Australia.

The report by Dr. Chris Chamberlain, Head of Sociology at Monash University, analysed data from the 1996 Census, from Supported Accommodation Assistance Programs (SAAP) throughout Australia and academic research.

The results of the study constitute important new information in the study of homelessness. This is the first time that information from these sources has been brought together in a common framework to analyse this very complex aspect of modern society.

The study will provide a solid base for further research into this field within Australia and is expected to lead to further policy development in this field.

The definition of homelessness used in the study goes beyond those people without a roof of any sort. Of those defined as homeless on census night, nearly half (48,500) were staying temporarily with other households; one-fifth (20,600) were in improvised dwellings, tents or sleeping out. Another 22 per cent (23,300) were staying in boarding houses on either a short-term or long-term basis. Finally another 12 per cent (12,900) were staying in accommodation funded under the SAAP, such as hostels, refuges, night shelters and other types of emergency accommodation.

The report also found that there were 73,000 households in the homeless population on census night. Of these 76 per cent were single person households (about 55,000 people); 14 per cent were couples; and 10 per cent were families. The 7,200 homeless families on census night included 28,000 people (10,752 parents and 16,928 children). Families thus constituted 10 per cent of homeless households but 26 per cent of homeless people.

Approximately 70 per cent of homeless people had been without secure accommodation for six months or longer, including many who had been homeless for more than a year. Between 15 and 20 per cent had been homeless for a few months and about 10 to 15 per cent for a few weeks.

The situation in individual States and Territories was as follows:


Number of
homeless people

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