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For more information on the ABS definition of homelessness see the Information Paper - A Statistical Definition of Homelessness, 2012 (cat. no. 4922.0).
The key homelessness estimates from the 2016 Census are:
The following table presents the time series of homelessness estimates for the six operational groups for 2001, 2006, 2011 and 2016.
People living in 'severely' crowded dwellings (i.e. usual residents of dwellings which needed four or more extra bedrooms to accommodate them adequately) have been the largest homeless group in each of the last four Censuses. While the number of people in this group fell slightly between 2001 and 2006, it jumped 31% (or 9,839 people) to 41,370 in 2011 and again in 2016, up a further 23% (or 9,718 people) and accounted for the majority of the rise in homelessness in 2011 and 2016. The majority of the increase in 2016 is attributed to New South Wales, up 74% (7,166 persons) to 16,821 persons compared with 9,655 in 2011.
Two thirds of the rise in 'severe' crowding is attributable to a doubling of the number of people in this homelessness group who were born overseas.
In 2016 there were 9,514 people living in severely crowded dwellings who were born overseas and who had arrived in Australia in 2011 or earlier, up 61% when compared to 2011 (5,914 persons) and 13,088 who had arrived in Australia after 2011 and were living in 'severely' crowded dwellings on Census night.
People arriving from India, China, Afghanistan and Pakistan accounted for about half the rise in the overseas born estimate for this homelessness group.
Overseas born homeless people living in 'severely' crowded dwellings accounted for more than half the rise in homelessness in both the 19 to 24 years age group and in the 25 to 34 years age group.
After severe crowding, supported accommodation for the homeless was the second largest homeless group in 2016, accounting for 18% of homeless people on Census night. There were 21,235 persons in supported accommodation in 2016, similar to 2011. New South Wales increased by 19% (or 937 persons) to 5.861 persons in supported accommodation for the homeless in 2016.
While supported accommodation accounts for 18% of the homeless in 2016, it accounts for 26% of homeless children aged under 12 years, 26% of youth aged 12 to 18 years and 21% of homeless Older Australians aged 75 years and over.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples continued to be over represented generally in the 2016 homelessness estimates (20%) and in supported accommodation (14%), compared to 3% of the total Australian population.
See the Explanatory Notes tab of this publication for a comparison of ABS Census based estimates of people in supported accommodation and estimates from the new Specialist Homelessness Services Collection conducted by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
There were 17,503 homeless persons living in boarding houses on Census night in 2016, up 17% on the estimate for 2011. The majority of the increase is attributed to New South Wales, up 19% or 1,076 persons to 6,869 in 2016 from 5,793 in 2011.
The majority of the homeless boarding house population is male (73%). They are also older than the rest of the homeless population with 45% of the boarding house homeless population aged 45 years and over, compared to 25% of the total homeless population being in that age bracket.
Only 3% of the homeless Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population stayed in boarding houses on Census night.
See Appendix 2: Estimation methodology, available from the Explanatory notes tab of this publication, for more information on changes to the methodology for estimating persons living in Boarding Houses between 2011 and 2016. Homeless estimates from 2011 for the category 'Persons living in boarding houses' have been revised downwards due to a change in treatment of dwellings that were 'not classifiable'.
Homeless and staying temporarily in other households
The 17,725 homeless people staying as visitors temporarily in other households and who reported no usual address accounted for 15% of the homeless population in 2016. This group includes homeless people staying as visitors with friends and relatives and people who were homeless in 'visitor only' households where none of the persons present on Census night usually lived in that dwelling.
This visitor homeless group reflects the average male to female ratio of all homeless people in 2016 (59% to 41%), and while younger than the boarding house population, is older than either the supported accommodation or severely crowded groups (39% of this homeless group were aged over 45 years and older).
As noted in the introduction, some groups, in particular youth, those escaping domestic and family violence and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians are likely to be underestimated in this category of homelessness because, despite being unable to return to their nominal 'home, they may still report it as their usual address. Therefore having reported a usual address means they cannot be distinguished from people who were visitors on Census night and who were not homeless.
Improvised dwellings, tents or sleeping out
There were 8,200 homeless people in improvised dwellings, tents or sleeping out in 2016, 20% higher than in 2011. The biggest increase was in New South Wales, up 35% (664 persons) to 2,588 person in 2016, when compared to 1,924 persons in 2011.
Males are over represented in this homeless group (66%), yet female representation has increased 1.2% nationally since 2011, due to increases in New South Wales (3.9%), Victoria (2.4%) and the Northern Territory (4.2%). The proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in this group (27%) has increased since 2011 (25%). This is higher than in the proportion of the total homeless population (20%), and significantly higher than the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons in the Australian population (3%).
In 2016, the number of youth (aged 12–24 years) living in improvised dwellings, tents or sleeping out decreased nationally by 121 persons (13%). The number of older Australians (aged 55 years and over) in this operational group increased nationally by 486 persons (34%), increasing in all States and Territories except Tasmania, with New South Wales the main contributor, up 242 persons (63%). The next youngest cohort, those aged 45–54 years, has increased nationally by 400 persons (29%) with New South Wales the main contributor.
States and Territories
In 2016, the rate of estimated homeless persons in New South Wales increased by 27% to 50 homeless persons per 10,000 persons compared to 40 homeless persons per 10,000 persons in 2011.
Tasmania had the lowest rate of homelessness at 23 person per 10,000 persons, while Queensland, Victoria and Australian Capital Territory had rates ranging from 40 to 46 homeless persons per 10,000 persons.
In the Northern Territory, 81% of the homeless population were living in 'severely' crowded dwellings in 2016. Severe crowding in the other states and territories ranged between 16% in Tasmania to 45% in New South Wales. Compared to other states and territories, Northern Territory also had a high rate of homeless persons in improvised dwellings, tents or sleeping out at 48 per 10,000 persons. The next highest rates were in Western Australia, Queensland and New South Wales (each 4 per 10,000 persons).
The rates of persons in supported accommodation for the homeless were highest in the Northern Territory (28 persons homeless per 10,000 persons) followed by the Australian Capital Territory (20 persons homeless per 10,000 persons). The rates in supported accommodation were lower in the other jurisdictions, ranging from 4 persons per 10,000 in Western Australia to 12 in Victoria.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples made up 3% of the Australian population in 2016. However, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians accounted for 20% (23,437 persons) (down from 26% in 2011) of all persons who were homeless on Census night in 2016. Of those who were classified as homeless, 70% (down from 75% in 2011) were living in 'severely' crowded dwellings, 12% were in supported accommodation for the homeless and 9% were in improvised dwellings, tents or sleeping out. For non-Indigenous homeless persons, 42% were living in 'severely' crowded dwellings, 15% were in supported accommodation, and 6% were in improvised dwellings, tents or sleeping out. The proportion of persons who did not state their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status increased to 10% (12,217 persons) of all persons who were homeless on Census night in 2016, up from 7% (7,651 persons) in 2011.
The estimate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians who were homeless on Census night is likely to be an underestimate, particularly for those staying temporarily with other households, reflecting both a relatively large underenumeration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons in the Census compared to the total population and because for some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians a usual address may be reported that is associated with a 'place' rather than with a home or dwelling. For further information see the 'Explanatory Notes' section of this publication.
Youth can refer to persons 12 to 18 years or 12 to 24 years of age.
Most of the homeless youth aged 12–18 years in 2016 were living in 'severely' crowded dwellings (61%) or in supported accommodation for the homeless (26%). While 7% of homeless people aged 12 to 18 years were staying temporarily with other households, this proportion increases to 12% for youth aged 19–24 years.
More generally, in 2016, 60% of homeless youth aged 12–24 years were living in 'severely' crowded dwellings and 18% were in supported accommodation for the homeless. While 9% of homeless people aged 12–24 years were staying in boarding houses, and 10% of homeless people aged 12–24 years were staying temporarily with other households.
Youth aged 12–24 made up 32% of total homeless persons living in 'severely' crowded dwellings, 23% of persons in supported accommodation for the homeless and 15% of persons staying in boarding houses in 2016.
The proportion of persons classified as homeless who are aged 12–24 are consistent across the States and Territories, ranging from 26% in both Victoria and Northern Territory to 21% in Queensland and Western Australia.
Older Australians (aged 55 years and over) made up 16% (18,625 persons) of the total homeless population in 2016. Older Australians are the only age cohort where persons living in 'severely' crowded dwellings is not the operational group with the highest population. For older persons, most are in boarding houses (27%), followed by staying temporarily in other households (24%).
Males accounted for 63% of older Australians who were homeless on Census night in 2016, increasing by 26% (or 2,407 persons) to 11,757 in 2016. The number of homeless older Australian females increased by 31% to 6,866 in 2016, up from 5,234 persons in 2011.
In 2016, older Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians accounted for 8% of all homeless Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
For the Census, people with a profound or severe disability are defined as those people needing help or assistance in one or more of the three core activity areas of self-care, mobility and communication, because of a disability, long-term health condition (lasting six months or more) or old age.
As in 2011 and 2006, 5% of homeless people in 2016 indicated they needed help or assistance in one or more of the three core activity areas. The proportion of persons requiring help or assistance in core activities who were classified as living in 'improvised dwellings, tents or sleeping out' is very low (3%), however as some persons sleeping rough (approximately 4,330 persons) were enumerated using the Special Short Form, which is a shortened version of the Census form, they were not asked about this data item and may not reflect the situation of persons in this group.
Culturally and linguistically diverse
People who were born overseas and arrived in Australia in the five years prior to Census accounted for 15% (17,749 persons) of all persons who were estimated to be homeless on Census night in 2016. Males (60%) were over represented in this homeless group compared to the total homeless population. The majority (78%) of homeless persons from culturally and linguistically diverse background, were aged 12–34 years.
Of the homeless people who were born overseas and arrived in Australia in the five years prior to Census, 12% were born In India, 10% in China, 6% in Afghanistan, 5% in Pakistan and 4% in Thailand, Vietnam, Taiwan and Malaysia.
In 2016, 74% or 13,088 people who were born overseas and arrived in Australia in the last 5 years were living in 'severely' crowded dwellings and 13% (2,350 persons) were staying in boarding houses.
Marginally housed and at risk of homelessness
People who were not classified as being homeless on Census night but were living in some form of marginal housing and may be at risk of homelessness are people whose living arrangements are close to the statistical boundary of homelessness. The number of people in other improvised dwellings increased between 2011 and 2016, up 20% to 5,401 people, the number of people marginally housed in caravan parks fell, down 17% to 10,685 people in 2016, while the number of people living in other crowded dwellings requiring three extra bedrooms according to the Canadian National Occupancy Standard jumped 33% to 80,877 in 2016.
As in 2011 and 2006, for the marginally housed population living in other crowded dwellings the rate in 2016 was highest in the Northern Territory with 223 per 10,000 persons followed by New South Wales (43) and Victoria (33).
Australian Government Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (2008) The Road Home. A National Approach to Reducing Homelessness, FaHCSIA, Canberra.
Department of Human Services Victoria (2002) Victorian Homelessness Strategy: Action Plan and Strategic Framework, Victoria, Melbourne.
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