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Australia: Notes on Homelessness from Census 2021

Quick notes from the 2021 Census data release:


(Source Link for analysis and reports)



The Census was held on 10 August 2021, when states and territories in Australia were under varied COVID-19 pandemic related restrictions. Measures to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 included: restrictions to international travel and migration; border control measures for some states and territories; stay at home orders; limits on gatherings; and social distancing rules.


The homelessness estimates presented in this publication reflect the unique accommodation circumstances of those experiencing homelessness at the time of the Census


OVERVIEW


  • 122,494 people were estimated to be experiencing homelessness at the time of the 2021 Census, an increase of 6,067 people (5.2%) since 2016.

  • The rate of homelessness decreased to 48 people per 10,000, from 50 in 2016.

  • Of those experiencing homelessness in 2021:

    • 68,516 (55.9%) were male, an increase of 1.6% from 2016

    • 53,974 (44.1%) were female, an increase of 10.1% from 2016.

    • Females accounted for 81.7% of the 6,067 increase of people experiencing homelessness in 2021.

    • The rate of homelessness for males decreased in 2021 to 55 males per 10,000 (from 58 in 2016), while the rate for females increased in 2021 to 42 females per 10,000 (from 41 in 2016).

CATEGORIES


The ABS uses six operational groups for presenting estimates of people experiencing homelessness on Census night. These groups are:

  • people living in improvised dwellings, tents or sleeping out

  • people living in supported accommodation for the homeless

  • people staying temporarily with other households

  • people living in boarding houses

  • people in other temporary lodgings

  • people living in ‘severely’ crowded dwellings.


Of the 122,494 people experiencing homelessness in Australia in 2021:

  • Two in five (39.1%) were living in 'severely' crowded dwellings

  • One in five (19.8%) were in supported accommodation for the homeless

  • One in six (18.1%) living in boarding houses.

Between 2016 and 2021, there was a:

  • 26.5% increase in people living in boarding houses

  • 14.4% increase in people in supported accommodation for the homeless

  • 6.9% decrease in people living in improvised dwellings, tents, or sleeping out

  • 6.3% decrease to living in 'severely' crowded dwellings.


The decrease in people living in improvised dwellings, tents, or sleeping out and the increase in people in other temporary lodgings may be partly associated with measures put in place by local and state governments in response to COVID-19. The increases in people living in boarding houses and people in other temporary lodging are also partly associated with improvements in data quality through greater use of administrative data.


AGE


The age groups presented in this release support analysis and reporting of some key cohorts for service delivery and policy responses to reduce the incidence of homelessness. These include children aged under 12 years, young people aged from 12 to 18 years and aged from 19 to 24 years.


Of the 122,494 people experiencing homelessness in 2021:

  • 25,504 (20.8%) were aged from 25 to 34 years

  • 17,646 (14.4%) were aged under 12 years

  • 17,085 (13.9%) were aged from 35 to 44 years.


The highest rates of homelessness per 10,000 people in 2021 were for those in the age groups 19–24 years (91 people per 10,000) and 25–34 years (70 people per 10,000).


Between 2016 and 2021 rates of homelessness per 10,000 people decreased across most age groups except for people:

  • aged under 12 years, which increased to 48 people per 10,000, from 45 in 2016

  • aged 12 to 18 years, which increased to 53 people per 10,000, from 51 in 2016.

HOMELESS YOUTHS


Young people are a national priority homelessness cohort for the Australian and state and territory governments to reduce the incidence of homelessness. This section refers to people aged from 12 to 24 years as youth.


In 2021 nearly a quarter (23.0%) of all people experiencing homelessness were aged from 12 to 24 years (28,204 people). The rate of homelessness for this age group decreased from 73 people per 10,000 in 2016 to 71 people per 10,000 in 2021.

Young females had a homelessness rate of 70 people per 10,000 in 2021, up from 68 in 2016. Young females were more likely than males to be:

  • in supported accommodation for the homeless (26.6%, compared with 20.3% of males)

  • staying temporarily with other households (9.9%, compared with 8.5% of males).

Young males had a homelessness rate of 71 people per 10,000 in 2021, down from 77 in 2016. Young males were more likely than females to be:

  • living in improvised dwellings, tents, or sleeping out (2.3%, compared with 2.0% of females)

  • living in boarding houses (15.0%, compared with 10.4% of females)

  • living in 'severely' crowded dwellings (52.0%, compared with 49.1% of females).

OLDER AUSTRALIANS EXPERIENCE HOMELESSNESS


Older Australians are a national priority homelessness cohort for the Australian and state and territory governments to reduce the incidence of homelessness. This section refers to people aged 55 years and over as older Australians.

In 2021 19,378 people aged 55 years and over were experiencing homelessness, representing one in seven (15.8%) people experiencing homelessness at the time of the Census. The rate of homelessness for older Australians decreased from 29 people per 10,000 in 2016 to 26 people per 10,000 in 2021. Older females had a homelessness rate of 19 people per 10,000 in 2021, down from 20 in 2016. Older females were more likely than males to be:

  • in supported accommodation for the homeless (16.9%, compared with 10.2% of males)

  • staying temporarily with other households (26.7%, compared with 19.6% of males)

  • living in 'severely' crowded dwellings (30.5%, compared with 17.7% of males).

Older males had a homelessness rate of 34 people per 10,000 in 2021, down from 39 in 2016. Older males were more likely than females to be:

  • living in improvised dwellings, tents, or sleeping out (12.4%, compared with 8.3% of females)

  • living in boarding houses (37.1%, compared with 14.6% of females).


ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDERS EXPERIENCING HOMELESSNESS


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are a national priority homelessness cohort for the Australian and state and territory governments to reduce the incidence of homelessness.


The ABS definition of homelessness has been developed for application to the general population in Australia. While Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are over-represented in the measures of homelessness developed with this definition, there are likely to be aspects to homelessness from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives that the definition does not adequately capture.



When considering changes over time, it is important to note that there have been significant increases in the number of people identifying as being of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin between Censuses. Increases in the population are influenced by demographic factors such as births, deaths and migration, and by non-demographic factors including changes in coverage and response in Censuses, whether or not a person identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander in each Census, and the identification of children or others who have had their form completed by parents or someone else on their behalf. Changes in Indigenous status between Censuses can affect the interpretation of Census data for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. It is important to remember that Indigenous status is collected through self-identification and any change in how a person chooses to identify will affect the count of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Census.


In 2021, 24,930 Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people were estimated to be experiencing homelessness, up 6.4% from 23,437 in 2016. This represents one in five (20.4%) people experiencing homelessness in Australia.


Of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experiencing homelessness at the time of the 2021 Census:

  • Three in five (60.0%) were living in ‘severely’ crowded dwellings

  • Almost one in five (19.1%) were in supported accommodation for the homeless

  • Nearly one in ten (9.3%) were living in improvised dwellings, tents, or sleeping out.


The states and territories with the highest rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experiencing homelessness were:

  • Northern Territory: 1,865 people per 10,000

  • Western Australia: 381 people per 10,000

  • South Australia: 327 people per 10,000.


OF THE STATES AND TERRITORIES:

  • Western Australia had the lowest rate of homelessness at 37 people per 10,000 in 2021

  • New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, and Tasmania had rates ranging from 42 to 47 people per 10,000 in 2021

  • Northern Territory had the highest rate of homelessness at 564 people per 10,000 in 2021.

Rates of homelessness per 10,000 people decreased between 2016 and 2021 in New South Wales, Queensland, Northern Territory, and the Australian Capital Territory. Rates increased in Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania.


In 2021:

  • Western Australia had the highest proportion of people living in improvised dwellings, tents, or sleeping out (23.8%)

  • The Australian Capital Territory had the highest proportion of people in supported accommodation for the homeless (48.5%)

  • Tasmania had the highest proportion of people staying temporarily with other households (25.0%)

  • Victoria had the highest proportion of people living in boarding houses (28.0%)

  • Northern Territory had the highest proportion of people living in 'severely' crowded dwellings (75.6%).



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