Homelessness Australia is happy to help out with any questions you may have regarding homelessness.  Please be sure to read the questions below before contacting us.

Be sure to check out our fact sheets and the other resources we have available on our website for information.

See below for some common questions asked by students.

What is homelessness?

On the most basic level homelessness is the state or condition of having no home.  But what is "home?" A home is merely more than having shelter - a home needs to be secure, safe and connected. There are many different definitions of homelessness.  You can find some of themhere.

What is Homelessness Australia

Homelessness Australia is the national peak body working to respond to homelessness.  We do not provide accommodation or client services.  We work with organisations across Australia to do research, provide input into government policy, advocate for organisations who represent the homeless and educate the community about homelessness.

Is homelessness a human rights issue?

Yes! People experiencing homelessness face violations of a wide range of human rights. Access to safe and secure housing is one of the most basic human rights. However, homelessness is not just about housing.

A person who is experiencing homelessness may be facing violations of the right to an adequate standard of living, the right to education, the right to liberty and security of the person, the right to privacy, the right to social security, the right to freedom from discrimination, the right to vote and many more.

How many people in Australia are homeless?

The most recent statistics available are from the 2011 ABS Census.  It shows that in Australia there are 105,237 people who are homeless. 

It may seem like statistics from 2011 are old, but the Census is the only 'big picture' view of homelessness we can get of Australia.

Other organisations collect information and compile statistics on homelessness numbers, but these are generally focused on a particular cohort of people experiencing homelessness (eg rough sleepers, users of a particular service etc) and do not canvas the numbers like the Census does.

Is homelessness a rising issue?

Yes, results from the 2011 Census showed that in five years the rate of homelessness increased by 8% from 89,728 to 105,237.

The numbers of people accessing homelessness services is also steadily increasing. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) releases yearly data on people receiving assistance, and turned away, from homelessness services. The number of people getting help, and being turned away, has increased over the past three years.

Why do you say 'people experiencing homelessness'?

People working in the homelessness sector often say "people experiencing homelessness" instead of the homeless or homeless people. This is because for most people homelessness is an experience (often short term) not a life sentence. Saying "experiencing homelessness" is one of the first steps to changing the perception of homelessness and recognises that the person comes before the situation.

Why are people homeless?

Homelessness is often the result of a number of complex issues. These can fall into three categories

  • Structural factors
  • Lack of income
  • Lack of affordable housing and available rental housing
  • Cost of living pressures
  • Discrimination
  • Poverty
  • Lack of superannuation in retirement
  • System failures
  • Young people exiting from the care system
  • Discharge system for people exiting prison
  • Discharge system for people exiting hospital
  • Discharge system for people exiting drug and alcohol treatment
  • Individual circumstances
  • Domestic and family violence
  • Addictions
  • Traumatic events
  • Mental illness
  • Physical health and disability

Where do people who are homeless go?

There are a number of places that people who are homeless stay.  These include:

  • Living in 'severely' crowded dwellings (39%).
  • Supported accommodation for the homeless (20%).
  • Staying temporarily with other households (17%).
  • Staying in boarding houses (17%).
  • Living in improvised dwellings, tents or sleeping out (6%) and;
  • Staying in other temporary lodging (1%). (Source: ABS)

What is being done to help?

What is the federal government doing?

Most federal government funding for the homelessness sector is provded through the stats and territories under two agreements:

  • The National Affordable Housing Agreement (NAHA); and
  • The National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness (NPAH)

Both the NAHA and the NPAH are in place to achieve sustainable housing and social inclusion for people who are homeless, or at risk of homelessness. However, the two agreements' structure and purposes are quite different.

There are around 1,300 organisations around Australia funded under these two agreements.

You can read more information on homelessness funding in our fact sheet.

The federal government is currently undertaking a Reform of the Federation process. This will address the responsibilities for federal and state/territory governments in relation to a number of issues, including homelessness and housing. Early indications show that the government is likely to completely withdraw from homelessness funding (and a large percentage of housing), leaving the states/territories and charities to foot the bill.

 What are the state/territory governments doing?

The Commonwealth Government provides the state and territory governments with funding (under the NAHA and NPAH). The states and territories manage this funding. State and territory governments can also use their own funds. The NPAH requires joint funding from the states/territories, whereas the NAHA does not.

What are not for profit organisations doing?

Not for profits play a very important role in helping people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

There are a large number of charities and not for profits which do a number of things for people who are homeless.  This can include:

  • accommodation services.
  • collection of resources (food, clothing etc).
  • advocacy services.
  • advice.
  • financial support.
  • skills and employment services.
  • health services.

What is Homelessness Australia doing?

Homelessness Australia plays an important role in lobbying government on behalf of homelessness organisations.  We work closely with the Minister responsible for homelessness and housing and their advisors. 

HA acts as a conduit between the homelessness sector and the government. We raise emerging issues with, and give feedback to, government and disseminate government information to the sector.

We also produce evidence based policy and research papers on issues of importance to the sector (such as mental illness, early intervention and sector diversity) and conduct community awareness campaigns.

HA assists government departments such as DSS, AIHW, DHS and the ABS when they are working in the area of homelessness. 

What can I do to help people who are homeless?

There are a number of things you can do to help the homeless. The world of the homeless can seem very far away - but it is often closer than you think. Sometimes a small thing can go a long way.

Some things you can do are:

  • Educate - help to dispel the stereotype of a homeless person! Learn about the reasons for homelessness - every situation is unique.
  • Respect - remember that people who are homeless are people too.  Give people who are homeless the same respect and courtesy you would your family and friends.
  • Donate - you can donate a lot of things - money, toys, clothing or food.  Check out our links page for a list of organisations who work with people who are homeless
  • Volunteer - you can volunteer not only your time but your skills and expertise.

What still needs to be done?

Homelessness Australia has a number of recommendations to prevent and end homelessness in Australia:

Recommendation 1: Renew funding for innovative homelessness services through the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness (NPAH)

Recommendation 2: Ensure funding for homelessness services in the National Affordable Housing Agreement (NAHA) includes adequate indexation and a wages component

Recommendation 3: Increase funding for homelessness prevention and early intervention programs with proven records of success

Recommendation 4: Restore funding for research to measure and maximise the effectiveness of homelessness spending, and to identify and develop innovations in
homelessness prevention and interventions

Recommendation 5: Ensure State and Territory housing authorities maintain their current public housing stock

Recommendation 6: Encourage private sector and institutional investment in affordable housing stock through a range of incentives, subsidies and grants and by reforming housing taxation

Recommendation 7: Re-allocate funding to the Department of Social Services grants programme for homelessness peak bodies