Specialist homelessness services (SHS) assisted almost 278,300 Australians during 2020-21, including 116,200 people who had experienced family and domestic violence, according to a new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).
The Specialist Homelessness Services annual report 2020-21 includes information from 1,698 agencies which received government funding to help Australians who were experiencing homelessness, or at risk of homelessness.
‘People experiencing homelessness and at risk of homelessness are among the most socially and economically disadvantaged people in Australia,’ said AIHW spokesperson Dr. Gabrielle Phillips.
‘SHS agencies help people in a variety of ways, such as providing accommodation services, assistance to sustain housing, meals and showers or laundry facilities, counselling and general support.’
‘In 2020-21, the services supported almost 278,300 clients, including 111,100 who were homeless when they presented for help and 144,500 who were at risk of homelessness. The majority of clients were female (60% or almost 167,400 clients) and 3 in 10 clients were aged under 18 (28% or over 78,500).’
One of the largest groups of clients assisted (42%, or 116,200) was people who had experienced family and domestic violence.
‘More than three quarters of clients who had experienced family and domestic violence were female (77% or 88,900) and 27,300 were male (23%). Around 4 in 10 (39% or 24,600) were experiencing homelessness and 19% (12,400) were in short term temporary accommodation at the start of support,’ Dr. Phillips said.
In 2020–21, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continued to be over-represented among SHS clients, with more than one-quarter of clients (28% or almost 73,300) who provided information on their Indigenous status identifying as being of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin.
In the 10 years to 2020–21, the number of SHS clients with a current mental health issue who received support increased by an average of 7.8% annually, faster than any other client group over the period. In 2020–21, 88,200 clients (32% of all SHS clients) had a current mental health issue, up from 44,700 in 2011–12.
SHS agencies have assisted more than 1.4 million clients since 2011-12. The number of clients grew by an average of 1.8% per year between 2011-12 to 2020-21 from 236,400 to 278,300. The number of clients assisted in 2020-21 was lower than in 2019-20 (290,500). One of the reasons for this may have been people accessing services provided by other organisations (not SHS) as part of government responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.
SHS agencies provided $109.4 million in financial assistance to clients in in 2020-21, with more than half (51% or $56.1 million) used to provide short-term or emergency accommodation and 30% ($33.0 million) used to help clients to establish or maintain tenancy.
The report is accompanied by state and territory factsheets.