Homelessness in Australia

Some Statistics

  • Tonight 116,427 will be homeless
  • 14 per cent increase in homelessness over 5 years
  • 7,483 are families with children
  • 26,226 are young people 12 to 24
  • 56% are Male and 44% are female.
  • 17,842 children aged under 12 are homeless
  • 42% are under the age of 25 – 44,068 young Australians
  • Every day, 250 people are turned away from crisis centres across the country

What is homelessness?

There is no one definition of homelessness.

Homelessness Australia uses the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) statistical definition of homelessness.

The ABS statistical definition states that when a person does not have suitable accommodation alternatives they are considered homeless if their current living arrangement:

  • is in a dwelling that is inadequate; or
  • has no tenure, or if their initial tenure is short and not extendable; or
  • does not allow them to have control of, and access to space for social relations.

The ABS definition of homelessness is informed by an understanding of homelessness as ‘home’lessness, not ‘roof’lessness. It emphasises the core elements of ‘home’ in Anglo American and European interpretations of the meaning of home as identified in research evidence (Mallett, 2004). These elements may include: a sense of security, stability, privacy, safety, and the ability to control living space. Homelessness is therefore a lack of one or more of the elements that represent ‘home’.

The definition has been constructed from a conceptual framework centred around the following elements:

  • Adequacy of the dwelling;
  • Security of tenure in the dwelling; and
  • control of, and access to space for social relations.

Some of the other recognised definitions of homelessness are:

Mackenzie and Chamberlain’s cultural definition of homelessness

Mackenzie and Chamberlain’s (1992) definition includes three categories in recognition of the diversity of homelessness:

  • Primary homelessness is experienced by people without conventional accommodation (e.g. sleeping rough or in improvised dwellings);
  • Secondary homelessness is experienced by people who frequently move from one temporary shelter to another (e.g. emergency accommodation, youth refuges, “couch surfing”);
  • Tertiary homelessness is experienced by people staying in accommodation that falls below minimum community standards (e.g. boarding housing and caravan parks).

This definition was adopted by the Commonwealth Advisory Committee on Homelessness in 2001 and is widely used in the homelessness sector.

United Nations definition of homelessness

The United Nations identifies homeless people under two broad groups:

  • Primary homelessness (or rooflessness). This category includes persons living in the streets without a shelter that would fall within the scope of living quarters;
  • Secondary homelessness. This category may include persons with no place of usual residence who move frequently between various types of accommodations (including dwellings, shelters and institutions for the homeless or other living quarters).This category includes persons living in private dwellings but reporting ‘no usual address’ on their census form.

Who experiences homelessness?

  • Homelessness impacts more men than women, and it impacts them differently.
  • Domestic violence is the number one cause of homelessness for women, while men are more likely to experience chronic homelessness.
  • Women often have young children — and nearly half of all homeless are under the age of 25.
  • A disproportionate number are indigenous, or born overseas.
  • Facing barriers to things like employment and private rental, or lacking in strong social support networks place people at a higher risk of homelessness. This is why specialised community supports are a vital part of addressing the issue.

116, 427 people are homeless

57% are male, 42% are female

60% are under the age of 35

20% are indigenous &
30% are born overseas

Where do people stay?

Although rough sleeping is a growing issue across Australian communities, the most common way that people experience homelessness is ‘severely overcrowded’ dwellings, and moving around between other kinds of insecure accommodation. This journey is often unsafe, and creates new risks for the health and wellbeing of those effected.

7% are rough sleepers

18% are in supported accomodation

15% are in boarding houses

44% are in “Severely” overcrowded dwellings