People who are homeless do not have access to the economic and personal support that a home normally affords. For some people, personal factors and social situations (including family breakdown, unemployment, drug abuse, gambling, mental health problems, domestic violence and poverty) culminate to cause them to become or remain homeless. Homelessness is likely to be an aspect of disadvantage that both derives from, and infers the risk of, many other aspects of disadvantage.
People experiencing homelessness can be in a number of situations including sleeping rough, staying temporarily with friends or relatives, staying in emergency accommodation or hostels, or residing in boarding houses. And these situations may change from night to night. The homeless state may mean not all homeless people are captured in data collections, and furthermore, even when they are, their homeless state might not be obvious and may need to be inferred from other characteristics. As a result, the complexity of measurement has in the past prevented any comprehensive official count.
For one group in the homeless population, information obtained from government-funded specialist homelessness agencies, and compiled by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, showed that during the year 2008-09 there were 204,900 people (one in every 105 Australians) who received support at some point during that year. More females (62%) than males (38%) received support, while males were slightly more likely to have repeat periods of homelessness. The most common reason for seeking assistance was due to domestic or family violence (22% of support periods), relationship or family breakdown (10%) and other financial difficulty (8%). Due to changes in data collection methods, these estimates cannot be directly compared with previous years (AIHW 2010).
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