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2049.0 - Census of Population and Housing: Estimating homelessness, 2011  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 12/11/2012   
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As in previous Censuses, in 2011 the ABS again used both a list strategy and a 'green sticker' strategy to supplement the ABS classification of dwellings that were supported accommodation for the homeless.

The lists of addresses of supported accommodation were provided from government bodies, individual Specialist Homeless Services (SHS) providers and umbrella homelessness services organisations. In 2011 ABS also sought information about what type of supported accommodation was provided, i.e. whether it was crisis or transitional housing etc. Some of the lists ABS received included this extra detail, some did not.

'Green Stickers' were sent to relevant organisations to distribute to dwellings such as refuges that were not on the address lists sent to the ABS. The green stickers were placed on the Census forms completed in those dwellings and mailed back to ABS, minimising contact with the local Census collector and maintaining both the confidentiality of the nature of the dwellings and the privacy of the people in those dwellings on Census night. On receipt of mail back forms (whether green stickered or not) collectors are advised that the form had been returned by post and not to return to the dwelling.

ABS enumerated 18,051 homeless people in dwellings that were either on the extra lists of supported accommodation or for which household forms were returned to ABS with green stickers affixed.

There were a further 3,207 people in dwellings enumerated by ABS as non-private dwellings (NPDs which are hostels for the homeless, night shelters and refuges), which were neither on the extra lists provided to ABS nor for which were any household forms returned to ABS with green stickers attached.

Together these strategies resulted in 21,258 homeless people being enumerated in supported accommodation for the homeless in 2011.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has provided ABS with some Specialist Homeless Services Collection (SHSC) data, for validation purposes, which are preliminary estimates of the number of people reported by SHS providers to have been in SHS accommodation on Census night (table A4.1 below). The SHSC data which AIHW provided relate to a single day (9 August 2011) that was relatively early in the SHSC period of progressive implementation of reporting by agencies, and the AIHW have indicated that due to this progressive implementation the SHSC data are underestimated by about out 6 to 7% nationally, although the underestimate varies by jurisdiction. In addition, the AIHW has advised that a number of jurisdictions have changed their service delivery models which may have affected both the actual and reported levels of accommodation.

The estimates from the Census are higher in total for Australia than the AIHW SHSC estimates, and higher for most jurisdictions except notably New South Wales and Western Australia.

A4.1 2011 Census supported accommodation estimates and AIHW SHS provider estimates for reported accommodation on Census night


Census supported accommodation estimates
4 926
7 845
3 784
1 620
1 105
21 258
SHS provider reports - persons accommodated on Census night
5 760
4 408
3 453
1 414
1 018
17 874
Census less SHS
3 437
3 384

Source: ABS, 2011 Census of Population and Housing; AIHW SHS Data Collection

It might at first be thought that the extra 3,207 people enumerated in the Census NPDs, which were neither on the extra lists provided to ABS nor for which there were any household forms returned to ABS with green stickers attached, account for the difference between the two sources. However, about 1,000 of those 3,207 extra people were in NSW, and yet the Census estimate for 2011 for NSW is still well short of the SHS reported number. Similarly, 37% of the Census estimate for WA is accounted for by the NPDs and yet the Census estimate still falls short of the SHS reports.

The jurisdictions where the Census estimate exceeds the 2011 SHS report by the most are Victoria, where the NPDs contribute just 730 of the 3,437 difference, and SA, where they contribute less than 150 of the 842 difference. ABS further assessed the quality of its 2011 Census estimates for those two jurisdictions by comparison with the estimates for 2006 (see table A4.2).

A4.2 2006 Census supported accommodation estimates and AIHW SAAP estimates for reported accommodation on Census night


Census supported accommodation estimates
3 867
6 929
3 065
1 474
1 088
17 329
SAAP - persons accommodated on Census night
4 140
4 027
2 621
1 500
1 116
14 517
Census less SAAP
2 902
2 812

Source: ABS, 2006 Census of Population and Housing; AIHW SAAP Data Collection

For Australia the increase in the Census based estimate in supported accommodation has risen by 23%. The SHSC Census night number for 2011 is up 23% on the 2006 SAAP data report, before any adjustment for the likely 6 to 7% underestimate early in the SHSC implementation period. Overall, the SHSC estimate might be expected to be 30% above the 2006 SAAP estimate, including both growth over time and the widened scope of the SHS collection in 2011.

For Victoria, the Census based SAAP estimate in 2006 was 6,929, including people in Transitional Housing Management properties (THMs). The AIHW reported SAAP estimate in 2006 was 4,027 people on Census night and excluded THMs. The Census based estimate for Victoria has risen 13% from 2006 to 2011. However, the SHSC estimate for 2011 is up 9%. While a yet to be conducted more detailed review of the SHSC and Census comparisons by finer levels of geography will be informative, the Census based estimates appear to be consistent over time.

Similarly for South Australia, Census based estimate for supported accommodation in 2006 was very close to the SAAP reported estimate and has risen 10% from 2006 to 2011 and appears to be consistent over time. The SHSC underestimate was most significant for South Australia due to the way they progressively reported client information. The SHSC estimate for 2011 is only half (52%) of the former SAAP estimate for 2006.

For New South Wales the Census data show more modest growth (27%) between 2006 and 2011, compared to the 39% growth in the SHSC to SAAP comparison. The picture for WA is a little different. The Census data recorded a fall of 14% while SHSC / SAAP comparison showed a 27% rise.

AIHW and ABS will work through the comparisons of the Census and SHSC data at finer levels of geography and publish a short update on the findings.

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