While many get help, lack of accommodation means some homeless people are turned away

A report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare using data collected as part of the Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP) National Data Collection, shows that while homelessness agencies accommodate large numbers of clients each day, they are unable to completely meet the demand for specialist homelessness accommodation.

The report, Demand for government-funded specialist homelessness accommodation 2008-09: a report from the SAAP National Data Collection, includes data from all states and territories except Victoria, and shows that of the people who were accommodated on an average day, the vast majority were in continuing accommodation.

'In 2008-09, people needing new and immediate accommodation made up a relatively small percentage of total demand (about 4%), but of those new requests, the majority (62%) were unable to be accommodated,' said Felicity Murdoch of the Institute's Housing and Homelessness Group. Ms Murdoch added that 'this level of turn away was similar to that reported in recent years'.

The most likely group to be turned away were family groups. An average of 80% of couples with children, 75% of couples without children and 69% of individuals with children who requested new and immediate accommodation were turned away each day, compared with 50% of individuals without children.

'One reason that family groups may find it harder to get into accommodation is that, once they are accommodated, these groups, particularly couples with children, tend to stay longer and hence places for them become available less often,' Ms Murdoch said.

Single men's agencies had the lowest turn-away rate, with 31% of requests for new and immediate accommodation unable to be met.

Some significant changes have occurred in the administration of homelessness services by Australian governments since the SAAP was replaced by the National Affordable Housing Agreement on 1 January 2009. Many of the previous SAAP services continued under the new agreement and a few new or modified services were introduced in the second half of 2008-09. Also, as noted in the report, data for Victoria are not included. Caution should be used in comparing 2008-09 results with previous years.

The report is accompanied by a summary publication Demand for government-funded specialist homelessness accommodation 2008-09: summary.


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