Every stat tells a story.

Nearly 1 in 200 people homeless on Census night in 2021

Media Release

More than 122,000 people in Australia experienced homelessness on Census night, an increase of 5.2 per cent from 2016, according to data released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

Georgia Chapman, ABS head of homelessness statistics, said this represents 48 people experiencing homelessness for every 10,000 people, compared with 50 people for every 10,000 in 2016.

“The 2021 Census gives us a unique snapshot of people experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“Measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 throughout 2021 contributed to some of the changes in the homelessness data that we’ve released today.

“During the 2021 Census, we saw fewer people ‘sleeping rough’ in improvised dwellings, tents or sleeping out, and fewer people in living in ‘severely’ crowded dwellings and staying temporarily with other households.

“However, we saw more people living in supported accommodation for the homeless, boarding houses and other temporary lodgings, such as a hotel or motel,” Ms Chapman said.

Males still make up the majority of those experiencing homelessness, with 68,000 or 55 in every 10,000 males in 2021. This was less than 2 per cent more than 2016. Meanwhile, the number of females experiencing homelessness increased by around 10 per cent from 2016 to almost 54,000, or 42 in every 10,000 females.

Kate Colvin, Homelessness Australia CEO, said the Census offers a critical insight into the prevalence of homelessness around Australia.

“This data is enormously valuable to inform the community, homelessness support services and government decision-makers about homelessness need in our community,” she said.

Please note that there are small random adjustments made to all cell values to protect the confidentiality of data. These adjustments may cause the sum of rows or columns to differ by small amounts from table totals.

  1. Categories are mutually exclusive; therefore, people will only appear in one category.
  2. Data for 2021 is not directly comparable with previous Censuses due to improvements in data quality through greater use of administrative data.   
  3. Usual residents in dwellings needing 4 or more extra bedrooms under the Canadian National Occupancy Standard (CNOS). See the 'Methodology' section of this publication for more information.                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

Source: Census of Population and Housing 2006, 2011, 2016, 2021.

The ABS thanks everyone who works in the homelessness sector for their support in conducting the 2021 Census.

“Support from the homelessness services sector was vital in producing the homelessness count during the pandemic, providing the community and policy-makers with a picture of what happened during this period,” Ms Chapman said.

Media notes

  • More information on state and territory government responses to the pandemic and how Census data was collected during the pandemic is in the Methodology and COVID-19 and the Census.
  • Explore the 2021 Census data using the ABS’ online data tools.
  • When reporting ABS data you must attribute the Australian Bureau of Statistics (or the ABS) as the source.
  • For media requests and interviews, contact the ABS Media Team via media@abs.gov.au (8.30am-5pm Mon-Fri).
  • Subscribe to our media release notification service to get notified of ABS media releases or publications upon their release.
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