The ABS has previously identified in its 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) that youth homeless will be underestimated from the Census.
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'.
ABS has not yet 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 derivable from Census data do not concord with their knowledge about youth homelessness.
Guided by its Homelessness Statistics Reference Group, 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.
Until a robust methodology is developed to measure the level of youth homelessness, 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.
For analysis on youth 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).
For more information on the definition of homelessness or the methodology for estimating homelessness from the Census see Information Paper - A Statistical Definition of Homelessness (cat. no. 4922.0) and Information Paper: Methodology for Estimating Homelessness from the Census of Population and Housing (cat. no. 2049.0.55.001).