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CONCEPTS AND DEFINITIONS
12 This publication uses the ABS statistical definition of homelessness, operationalised for using data from the Census of Population and Housing. A summary of the definition can be found in Feature Article: Overview of the 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 compile Census data for these groups are included in Feature Article: Methodology used to Calculate Homelessness Estimates 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 count 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 (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2012d). 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.
18 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.
19 It may be tempting to overestimate homelessness in some groups to compensate for both under-enumeration and likely under-estimation 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 under-estimation and deliberate over-estimation may result, this is unlikely, particularly when there is little information on the magnitude of under-estimation. 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 under-estimated 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.
20 ABS recognises that some groups of people are more likely to be under-enumerated in the Census. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are more likely to be both under-enumerated and overrepresented in the homeless population. ABS has developed strategies for each Census aimed at maximising the enumeration of Indigenous persons (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2012f and 2006).
21 So called rough sleepers and people staying in supported accommodation for the homeless are also at risk of being under-enumerated 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 (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2012g and 2008).
22 The ABS Post Enumeration Survey (PES) is used to estimate for the under enumeration 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 under-enumeration or under-coverage of homelessness estimates derived from the Census.
KEY POPULATION GROUPS
23 For some key groups, Census variables provide limited opportunity to estimate those likely to be homeless. Three key groups are:
24 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 under-estimation.
25 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'.
26 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.
27 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.
28 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.
29 For analysis on youth homelessness from the 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
30 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.
31 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.
32 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
33 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians have been under-enumerated in the Census, and estimates of homelessness based on Census data will be an under-estimation. In the 2006 Census, the net undercount rate for Indigenous Australians was 11.5%. Some of those who were under-enumerated may have been homeless at the time of the Census.
34 Under-estimation 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.
35 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.
36 While the increased effort in the 2011 Census to improve the enumeration of Indigenous Australians was successful, under-enumeration is still large, and the difficulties in differentiating between those who may be homeless remain.
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 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 (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 identify anyone who may be homeless, and then refines this broad inclusion by analysing these people to identify, 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 an 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 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 over-estimate 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 under-estimation of people living in boarding houses in estimates of homelessness, and an over-estimation of those living in boarding houses who are likely to be homeless according to the ABS definition. For future Censuses, the ABS will look at ways to improve the identification of boarding houses such as obtaining lists from relevant sources - for both registered and unregistered boarding houses and whether more information can be obtained about the facilities and tenures offered in registered boarding houses.
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 will be used about clients who are accommodated using vouchers or 'brokerage' in hotels, caravan parks 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 would, under the ABS statistical 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 Unfortunately, the lists of supported accommodation that the ABS obtained for the 2006 Census did not separately identify THMs from other crisis accommodation, nor report information about the elements of homelessness. Therefore all THMs are indistinguishably included in the broader estimate of 'Persons in supported accommodation for the homeless'. For 2011, the ABS did receive information from some jurisdictions about THM but did not obtain any of the requested information about the facilities or the tenures offered. The ABS is analysing the list of information received for 2011 to consider ways in which it can 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 2006 Census, 766,000 persons were imputed to be in occupied non-contact private dwellings.
72 For about a third of the imputed people (about 275,000), 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 (about 500,000 people) where no information could be obtained as to whether or not the dwelling was occupied on Census Night, are 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' (SAAP). While some SAAP properties were enumerated as NPDs in the 2006 Census, most were enumerated as private dwellings and reassigned a SAAP flag based on the lists of SAAP properties provided by jurisdictions. In the flagged properties where no contact was made, about 860 people were imputed using a credible source to confirm the occupation of the dwelling on Census Night. Another 1,110 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 1,110 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 on only about 6% of total SAAP accommodation on Census Night) and the inclusion of the imputed records lifts the Census estimates slightly to align broadly with Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) estimates of SAAP accommodation on Census Night, suggesting no significant overestimate.
76 Imputed records for people staying in non-contact private dwellings 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 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 over-estimation.
CANADIAN NATIONAL OCCUPANCY STANDARD
79 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).
80 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.
81 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.
82 The CNOS is sensitive to both household size and composition. The measure assesses the bedroom requirements of a household by specifying that:
83 Households living in dwellings where this standard cannot be met are considered to be overcrowded.
Limitations in calculating the CNOS
84 There may be some under-estimation 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
85 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.
86 For the purposes of estimating homelessness and marginal housing, '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 including the northern beaches in New South Wales, and in Queensland, Northern Territory and northern Western Australia. 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.
87 In Appendix 1 the characteristics of grey nomads are contrasted with those of the group of older travellers on Census Night to show similarities between these two groups of travellers.
88 Further analysis of grey nomads can be found in Position Paper - ABS Review of Counting the Homeless Methodology, August 2011 (cat. no. 2050.0.55.002).
89 The following paragraphs include additional details on the monetary cut offs used in the homeless methodology for 2006 and 2001.
90 The Census collects personal income for all persons aged 15 years and over. People are asked to report the total of all their wages and salaries, government benefits, pensions, allowances and any other income they usually receive, before deductions for tax, superannuation contributions, health insurance, amounts salary sacrificed, or any other automatic deductions. People were asked to report their usual income by selecting an income range (they were not asked to report in actual dollars). The Census ranges were designed after analysing data from the Survey of Income and Housing (SIH), in which personal income was collected in actual dollar amounts.
91 Household incomes were not collected in the Census but were derived from personal income data. As it is not possible to aggregate personal income ranges, a specific dollar amount was imputed for each personal income range selected by each household member. For the Census processing, the weighted median estimates of gross weekly personal income from the Survey of Income and Housing, adjusted for inflation, were calculated for each of the reported ranges in the Census. These medians were then allocated to each person who reported an income range in the Census.
92 Individual and combined income cut offs in the homeless estimation methodology were chosen at the levels outlined in the rules for each of the homeless operational groups because, along with other characteristics of the person or household, the ABS considers this to be important evidence in determining whether households were most likely to have, on balance, accommodation alternatives. The cut offs for each Census year were set to ensure that those with high levels of income were not misclassified as homeless.
93 For individual incomes, the range boundaries are used to indicate income below the bottom of a range, where on balance, people may be unlikely to have accommodation alternatives, or to indicate that income above the top of a range may reflect accommodation alternatives. Because income is collected in ranges it is not possible to make a finer distinction within the range.
94 For the homeless operational group relating to boarding houses, the values for individual income were $600 per week in 2006 and $400 per week in 2001. This range boundary was not applied to establish an individual's homelessness, but was used to establish the proportions of the residents of an NPD that were above the threshold as a method of classifying NPDs as boarding houses for the homeless.
95 The range boundary used for the homeless operational group 'Persons in other temporary lodging' was $400 per week in 2006 and $300 per week in 2001. This boundary is applied to individuals in these dwellings, and is not used to classify the type of dwelling.
96 The only household income cut off used was $2,000 or more per week in the 2006 Census in conjunction with certain tenure types and employment status to ascertain the likelihood of the occupants being construction workers etc rather than homeless occupants of an improvised dwelling. For 2001 the household income cut off applied was $1,594 per week.
97 Mean weekly housing costs, as measured in the 2005-06 ABS Survey of Income and Housing for households renting in the private rental market, was $223 per week.
98 No State, and no capital city recorded an average weekly rent in the private rental market that was above $300 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 (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2007).
99 The cut off for rental payments was set above a level that could be afforded by those who were, on balance, most likely to be homeless.
100 The 2006 Census rental payments were used as the base for rental payments and then rent was adjusted to 2001 by taking into consideration the changes in the cost of living in the Consumer Price Index (CPI). The CPI showed a 13.0% change between 2001 and 2006. In the methodology the weekly rental repayment cut off was set to $265 per week in 2001 and $300 per week in 2006.
101 Mortgage payments were set to a level considered to be above a level of mortgage payment that could be afforded by those who were, on balance, most likely to be homeless.
102 Analysis of the 2006 Census data identified that a number of persons who reported owning their 'improvised dwelling' with a mortgage, had mortgage repayments of $1,050 or over per month and no one in the dwelling was employed full-time (excluding persons temporarily absent).
103 Based on an analysis of the characteristics of these people, they were unlikely, on balance, to be homeless and as a result, were not included in the homeless population. It was concluded that the characteristics of this group indicated they were most likely to be persons repaying a mortgage on land they are purchasing, and who could be in an ‘improvised dwelling’ while building or waiting to build their home.
104 The 2006 Census was used as the base for mortgage repayments and then repayments were adjusted to 2001 by taking into consideration the changes in the cost of living in the CPI. The 'house purchase' from the CPI showed there was a 24.2% change between 2001 and 2006. In the methodology the mortgage repayment cut off for 2001 was $845 or more per month and $1,050 or more a month in 2006.
RATES PER 10,000 OF THE POPULATION
105 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 in the Census count of the usual resident population excluding people in external territories, at sea, or in migratory and off shore regions. The table below shows the usual resident population counts for the 2006 and 2001 Censuses that have been used as the base in the Rate tables.
106 Table 4.1 shows the rate of homelessness per 10,000 of the population for all States and Territories in 2006. The rate for the Northern Territory was 791.7 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 'People 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: 62.9 compared with between 1.6 and 5.2 homeless persons per 10,000 for the improvised dwelling group and 665.4 compared with between 2.4 and 15.2 for those living in severely crowded dwellings.
107 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'. Over 60% of people in this operational group identify as Aboriginal and / or Torres Strait Islander Australians and 57% of persons in this operational group were enumerated in remote and very remote Australia. Compared to other states and territories in Australia, in 2006, the Northern Territory had a higher per capita population of Australians who were identified as Aboriginal and / or Torres Strait Islander and more Northern Territory residents live in remote and very remote parts of Australia. Persons living in severely crowded dwellings also had a higher proportion with these characteristics.
108 A comparison of rates of homelessness by homeless operational group are not available for 2001 because data for the homeless operational group 'People in supported accommodation for the homeless' is not available from the Census (see Appendix 2 for more information).
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 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 collected in 2001
112 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
113 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.
114 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.
115 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, 2004 and 2007). The countries used in the methodology are for the financial year ending in the Census year.
116 In 2006 the countries were:
117 In 2001 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, known as a Collection District (CD), 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 (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2006).
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 2006 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.
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 (HES) was developed with the aim of ensuring that everyone was enumerated on Census Night. The HES targets those homeless groups that are hard to enumerate or identify as homeless through the mainstream Census collection.
126 The groups that were the focus of the strategy were those who were rough sleeping, couch surfing or staying in supported accommodation for the homeless. People who were staying in boarding houses were enumerated under the procedures that the Census employs to count people in non-private establishments. The HES was a nation-wide initiative, covering all jurisdictions and all areas, including remote, in Australia.
127 Critical to the success of the HES was the support and engagement of service providers and their staff from a number of community sectors across Australia who worked with the ABS to successfully enumerate people experiencing homelessness. The ABS acknowledges the hard work and dedication of these people to producing a high quality count of all people in Australia.
During the Census Operation
128 Collection Management Units (CMUs) worked closely with service and accommodation providers to identify locations of people experiencing homelessness and to employ staff from these organisations, where possible, to assist with the homeless count. Many people who had, or were currently experiencing homelessness, were recruited to assist with the homeless count. In 2006 the ABS employed over 250 specialist field staff to conduct the homeless count.
129 A major component of implementing the strategy was the street count - ensuring that Census forms were completed for people experiencing homelessness who were sleeping rough and who might otherwise be missed by the mainstream enumeration.
130 CMUs had the flexibility to use either a mainstream Household Form to enumerate rough sleepers, or the Special Short Form. The HHF enables more data, such as family structure, to be collected. However, the SSF takes less time to complete for each person experiencing homelessness.
Green Sticker and list strategies
131 The ABS engaged with providers of supported accommodation for the homeless to allow people staying in these dwellings on Census Night to be counted confidentially, that is, that they did not need to identify to the Census collector that they were homeless. Two strategies were employed: 'Green Sticker' and the list strategies.
132 'Green Stickers' were sent to organisations, SAAP providers and umbrella groups to be used on Census forms that were completed in crisis accommodation and refuges. This ensured that the householders could minimise contact with the local Census collector, and avoid identifying that they were staying in a refuge or other accommodation for the homeless. A Green Sticker was placed on the Census form, which was mailed directly to the DPC. The form was then processed confidentially and securely, and the dwelling was flagged in the data as providing supported accommodation for the homeless. A message was sent to the collector that the form had been returned by post and not to return to the dwelling to collect it.
133 The other strategy was to obtain lists of the known addresses where SAAP accommodation was provided on Census Night. These lists were obtained from government bodies, individual providers of supported accommodation for the homeless, and umbrella organisations. This information was used to correctly classify the accommodation within the DPC, bypassing the need for field staff to identify the dwelling as accommodation for the homeless.
134 Given the confidential nature of these lists, the ABS took steps to ensure the addresses were kept secure and confidential by creating a password-protected electronic deposit box to provide the addresses. Only authorised staff at the DPC were permitted to access these lists (see Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2008).
135 The ABS use other special strategies to target specific groups of people in the Census for example, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians (see Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2012f)
Response errors and non-response bias
136 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 count (Census) or a sample.
137 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.
138 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.
139 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, 2012g).
WHAT CAN THE CENSUS POST ENUMERATION SURVEY TELL US ABOUT HOMELESSNESS ESTIMATES?
140 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.
141 There were 6,276 people enumerated in the 2006 PES for whom a Census record was not found (ABS 2007a, Table 4.1). Some 97% of these respondents to the PES were usual residents of their PES address. Only 3% were visitors at the time of the PES. Of the 4,796 PES respondents who thought that they had been counted in the Census three weeks earlier, about three-quarters thought that they would have been counted at their PES address i.e. at home. They were not visitors to that address at either the time of the Census nor at the time of the PES. For these people with a common address given at both the Census and the PES, the reasons for them being missed during the Census are not known. Common reasons include simple error on the part of householders completing the form (e.g. assuming the person is being enumerated elsewhere because they were away from home on Census Night, or being accidentally left off the Census form). If they were in a specialist homeless services dwelling at the time of the Census and have since returned home, they would have been included in the SAAP component of homelessness in the Census dataset. If they had been in a boarding house at the time of the Census and were missed in a boarding house on Census Night, their usual address elsewhere in Australia would have meant they would need to be excluded from any homeless estimate.
142 The other 25% of this group of 4,796 PES respondents who thought they had been counted (but in fact were not) nominated another address where they thought they were enumerated in the Census. About 50% of these people (546) nominated a Census Night dwelling address that was missed by Census collectors i.e. they were not people who chose not to participate, nor were they in dwellings that the Census collectors could not make contact with. They were in fact dwellings that the Census collector simply missed and their omission from the Census enumeration has no impact on homelessness estimates.
143 While 97% of PES respondents reported their PES address as their usual address, and most of those reported that it was also their Census Night address, there may be some people enumerated in the PES who were not counted in the Census because they were temporarily absent and homeless at the time of the Census, but had returned home in the three weeks since the Census. Such circumstances may include youth or people escaping domestic violence and staying temporarily with other households on Census Night but not being recorded on the Census form for that household.
144 And as 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.
145 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.
146 The ABS also acknowledges the contributions from homelessness services organisations and their staff, some of whom serve on the ABS' Homelessness Statistics Reference Group (HSRG), and many participated in public meetings to discuss the ABS statistical developments and gave their views in submissions. Many more provided their strong support for the enumeration of homeless people in the 2011 Census.
147 The ABS established the HSRG to advise the ABS on the development, collection, compilation, production and dissemination of robust statistics for use in analysing, understanding and reporting on homelessness in Australia. The ABS thanks all HSRG members past and present for their invaluable contributions, commitment and time in advising the ABS. The ABS particularly thanks HSRG co-chair Dr Shelley Mallett (Hanover General Manager of Research and Service Development, and Honorary Senior Lecturer at Melbourne University) for her knowledge, facilitation, and dedication in her role as co-chair, and to HSRG members Professor Chris Chamberlain and Associate Professor David MacKenzie for their ground-breaking work in establishing a world first approach to the use of Census data in estimation of the homelessness population.
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