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2049.0.55.001 - Information Paper - Methodology for Estimating Homelessness from the Census of Population and Housing, 2012  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 05/09/2012  First Issue
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Contents >> Methodology Used to Calculate Homeless Estimates >> Persons staying temporarily with other households


The homeless operational group 'Persons staying temporarily with other households' commences with analysis of persons enumerated in any private dwelling structure (except an improvised dwelling, tent, sleepers out) and who reported having 'No usual address'.

This group will contain people who were visiting on Census night for a range of reasons including those who are 'couch surfing'. It is unlikely that all of the people enumerated as 'visitors' without a usual address being reported on Census night meet the definition of homelessness.

People in private dwellings who report no usual address fall into two groups:

  • visitors who report having no usual address and staying in a dwelling that also contains usual residents of that dwelling; and
  • people staying in 'visitor only households' who report no usual address' and there are no usual residents in the dwelling.

Given the differences in the living circumstances of these people on Census night, each group needs to be considered using different judgements to determine whether the persons in the group are, on balance, most likely to be homeless. Some of the people in 'visitor only households' will be families moving to a new location for work, people who have recently moved to, or returned to Australia and have not have not, or will not be living in their current property for six months or more in the Census year (given the Census takes place in August). In these circumstances they have correctly answered that they have no usual address, but are not homeless.

Many other people in this visitor only household group are people travelling on Census night. Of these, the ABS classified one group as 'grey nomads' who were unlikely to be homeless and therefore were not included in the homeless population. Grey nomads are defined as people in dwellings where all people in the dwelling reported no usual address, were aged 55 years and over, were not in the labour force, and were staying in caravans, cabins or houseboats on Census night. The phenomenon of people travelling around Australia in their retirement is growing, and in 2006 the great majority of these 'grey nomads' were enumerated in holiday destinations in the northern beaches in NSW, Queensland, Northern Territory and northern Western Australia.

Another group of people in 'visitor only households' were staying in properties (other than caravans, cabins or houseboats) where the property was owned outright or on which they reported mortgage repayments. They were not staying with friends or relatives. These people were not included in the homeless estimates as the judgement was made that they report no usual address because they are either travelling or moving primary residence, and staying in their holiday or second home at the time of the Census.

Another group of people in visitor only households were staying in properties (other than caravans, cabins or houseboats) that they were renting. These people are not staying with friends or relatives and their characteristics suggested that they were travelling rather than being homeless on Census night.

The ABS also classified as not homeless people who were, on balance, most likely to be new migrants to Australia or returning to Australia to live. They were people who reported being overseas in August 2005, and who were renting or occupying premises on Census night and reporting no usual address. For new migrants the year of arrival was 2006. On balance, most of the people within this group were unlikely to be homeless and had just not yet had the opportunity to settle in or back into Australia, or if they arrived in July or August would not be able to occupy their current address for six months in the year of the Census.

The ABS recognises that there are a number of groups (See Chapter 4 for more information) that would be underrepresented in this homeless group of 'persons staying temporarily with other households'. These include youth, people fleeing domestic and/or family violence and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians who may be homeless but for whom a usual address on Census night is reported. They can not be identified from those people who were visitors on Census night (such as those on family holidays, visiting relatives etc.). This 'invisibility' for some of the homeless condition in the Census dataset should be taken into consideration when using the data for this group.

ABS has not yet been able to implement any reliable way of estimating homelessness among youth staying with other households and for whom a usual address is reported in the Census. Service providers and researchers indicate that the low estimates of homeless youth staying with other households does 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.

In 2006 there were 1,928 imputed records for 'visitors' with no usual address, which are not classified as homeless. In reviewing the reported visitors with no usual address in visitor only households, 86% were determined, on balance, not to be homeless based on the detailed characteristics of the groups that can be studied among these households that suggests more plausible interpretations of the reporting of no usual address. Many of the dwellings housing 'visitor only' households for whom a usual address was not reported were in holiday areas (e.g. the snow and coastal Queensland). These geographical areas may have many dwellings for holiday makers as well as second residences. These dwellings could look occupied on Census night but may not have been because the owners were in their primary residence on Census night or because the holiday dwelling was not rented out on Census night but was at other times during the Census period. Any records imputed based on the selection of a responding property in a similar location is likely to be at least as likely (86%) to generate a false signal for homelessness as determined for the reported visitor only households. While there are some imputations of households with both usual residents and visitors with no usual address, again the locations of these properties and the higher than average likelihood of non-contact in these areas suggest the visitor imputations are unlikely to reflect homelessness. On balance there is no strong evidence that the imputations reflect homeless.

More analysis on these groups can be found in the previous 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).

To align this group with the definition of homelessness, the rules apply the 'element' of the dwelling 'security of tenure of the dwelling' in that the visitors have no tenure. They also do not have 'control, or access to social relations' and therefore this element is also lacking. Other variables are used to remove the groups of people who would, on balance, most likely have accommodation alternatives (such as grey nomads, construction workers, recent migrants, other travellers). This leaves the remainder of the people in this homeless category as those without accommodation alternatives and thus homeless.

Rules for estimating Persons staying temporarily with other households

The following table presents the rules that are applied to identify the persons who were most likely to be homeless on Census night and staying temporarily with other households. The rule starts with the broad Census dwelling category of persons enumerated in a private dwelling (which was not classified as an improvised dwelling, tents, sleepers out) and who reported no usual address. The category is then refined to remove those groups of people who were unlikely to be homeless on Census night for the two different groups:
  • visitors who report having no usual address and staying in a dwelling that also contains usual residents of that dwelling; and
  • people staying in 'visitor only households'. This is where there are people in the dwelling reporting having 'no usual address' and there are no usual residents in the dwelling.
Diagram: Rules for estimating Persons staying temporarily with other households

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