Homelessness is not just the result of too few houses. Its causes are many and varied. Domestic violence, a shortage of affordable housing, unemployment, mental illness, family breakdown and drug and alcohol abuse all contribute to the level of homelessness in Australia.
Prevalence estimates of how many people experienced homelessness at a particular point-in-time can allow councils to judge the scale of homelessness, and can be used to report trends and to target services to prevent or alleviate the circumstances of homelessness through knowing both the locations of the homeless and their characteristics.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has released the findings of its Census of Population and Housing which estimates homelessness in 2016. This publication presents estimates of the prevalence of homelessness, and the characteristics and living arrangements of those likely to be homeless, on Census night 2016 and compares those estimates to Census night in 2011, 2006 and 2001. Estimates are also provided for people whose living arrangements are close to the statistical boundary of homelessness, but who are not classified as homeless.
While homelessness itself is not a characteristic that is directly collected in the Census of Population and Housing, the ABS estimates the homeless population from the Census by using analytical techniques based on both the characteristics observed in the Census and assumptions about the way people may respond to Census questions.
The ABS estimates that 116,427 people enumerated in the Census were homeless on Census night (up from 102,439 persons in 2011). The homeless rate was 50 persons for every 10,000 persons enumerated in the 2016 Census, which was up 5% from the 48 persons in 2011 and up on the 45 persons in 2006. The homelessness rate rose by 27% in New South Wales, while Western Australia fell 11% and Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory each fell by 17%.
More data is available on the ABS website.