Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2020) Specialist homelessness services annual report 2019-20, AIHW, Australian Government, accessed 01 July 2022.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2020). Specialist homelessness services annual report 2019-20. Retrieved from https://pp.aihw.gov.au/reports/homelessness-services/shs-annual-report-2019-20
Specialist homelessness services annual report 2019-20. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 11 December 2020, https://pp.aihw.gov.au/reports/homelessness-services/shs-annual-report-2019-20
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Specialist homelessness services annual report 2019-20 [Internet]. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2020 [cited 2022 Jul. 1]. Available from: https://pp.aihw.gov.au/reports/homelessness-services/shs-annual-report-2019-20
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2020, Specialist homelessness services annual report 2019-20, viewed 1 July 2022, https://pp.aihw.gov.au/reports/homelessness-services/shs-annual-report-2019-20
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People leaving care arrangements, including people transitioning from health care settings (hospitals, psychiatric hospitals, rehabilitation and aged care facilities) and young people transitioning from out-of-home care (foster care and residential care facilities), can find themselves particularly vulnerable to homelessness. This can be due to inadequate transition planning, undertaking discharge assessments in time- or resource-pressured environments and limited options for exit into suitable and secure housing (Brackertz et al. 2018).
People exiting institutions and care into homelessness are a national priority homelessness cohort identified in the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement which came into effect on 1 July 2018 (CRRF 2018) (See Policy section for more information).
In 2018–19, around 3,400 young people aged 15–17 were discharged from out-of-home care in Australia (AIHW 2020), corresponding with the end of formal support in the child protection system. One in 3 young people leaving out-of-home care experience homelessness within 12 months of leaving (McDowall 2009). Young people transitioning from out-of-home care face barriers to accessing the same opportunities as their non-care peers who increasingly rely on parental resources in young adulthood (Wilkins et al. 2019). During this accelerated transition to independence, young people leaving care need adequate support to access safe and stable housing, education, employment, financial security, supportive relationships and networks, and life skills (FaHCSIA 2011).
People transitioning from health care settings are also at risk of being discharged into homelessness. In a study of people who have experienced homelessness, 17% had been admitted to hospital for a mental health diagnosis in the previous 2 years (Wood et al. 2016). Discharge from psychiatric hospital in particular has been identified as a key pathway into homelessness among people with mental health issues (Nielssen et al. 2018).
In the SHSC, a client is identified as transitioning from care arrangements if, in their first support period during the reporting period, either in the week before or at presentation:
Note that these dwelling types are part of the broad housing situation ‘Institutional settings’, which also includes categories relating to custodial arrangements. See the associated section for information specifically relating to Clients exiting custodial arrangements.
For more information see Technical information.
In 2019–20 (Table LCARE.1):
Number of clients
Proportion of all clients
Rate (per 10,000 population)
Source: Specialist Homelessness Services Collection 2015–16 to 2019–20.
In 2019–20 (Supplementary table LCARE.1):
In 2019–20, of the clients leaving care whose Indigenous status was known (Supplementary table LCARE.8):
In 2019–20 (Supplementary table LCARE.2):
In 2019–20, of the 6,500 clients who were leaving care and stated their dwelling type at the beginning of support (Supplementary table LCARE.12):
In 2019–20 (Supplementary table LCARE.7):
Clients may face challenges that make them more vulnerable to experiencing homelessness. The vulnerabilities presented here include family and domestic violence, a current mental health issue and problematic drug and/or alcohol use.
In 2019–20, of the more than 6,300 clients leaving care who were aged 10 and over, over 4 in 5 (84%) reported experiencing one or more of these vulnerabilities (Table LCARE.2):
Family and domestic violence
Mental health issue
Problematic drug and
or alcohol use
Source: Specialist Homelessness Services Collection 2019–20.
At the beginning of their first support period in 2019–20, more than 1 in 4 (27%) clients leaving care were experiencing homelessness when they first presented to a SHS agency while 73% were at risk of homelessness (Supplementary table CLIENTS.12).
In 2019–20, clients leaving care received (Table LCARE.3):
Length of support (median number of days)
Average number of support periods per client
Proportion receiving accommodation
Median number of nights accommodated
Source: Specialist Homelessness Services Collection 2015–16 to 2019–20.
In 2019–20, the main reasons for seeking assistance among clients leaving care were (Supplementary table LCARE.5):
Clients leaving care who were at risk of homelessness at first presentation were more likely to identify mental health issues (9% of those at risk, compared with 6% experiencing homelessness) and problematic drug or substance use (7%, compared with less than 4% experiencing homelessness) as their main reason for seeking assistance (Supplementary table LCARE.6).
Clients leaving care who were experiencing homelessness at first presentation were more likely to report transition from other care arrangements (18%, compared with 10% at risk) or transition from foster care and child safety residential placements (10%, compared with 5% at risk) as their main reason for seeking assistance.
Similar to the overall SHS population, clients leaving care needed general services which were provided by SHS agencies including advice/information, advocacy/liaison on behalf of client and other basic assistance.
Apart from general services, the most common services needed by clients leaving care were (Supplementary table LCARE.3):
Clients leaving care were more likely than all SHS clients to need services including:
Outcomes presented here describe the change in clients’ housing situation between the start and end of support. Data is limited to clients who ceased receiving support during the financial year—meaning that their support periods had closed and they did not have ongoing support at the end of the year.
Many clients had long periods of support or even multiple support periods during 2019–20. They may have had a number of changes in their housing situation over the course of their support. These changes within the year are not reflected in the data presented here, rather the client situation at the start of their first support period in 2019–20 is compared with the end of their last support period in 2019–20. A proportion of these clients may have sought assistance prior to 2019–20, and may again in the future.
In 2019–20 (Table LCARE.4):
These trends demonstrate that known housing outcomes at the end of support can be challenging for clients transitioning from institutional settings. While some clients progressed towards more positive housing solutions, many remained in/returned to institutional settings or were in temporary accommodation at the end of support. Some clients might only require short-term accommodation immediately after leaving care, others might need more support to access or maintain housing in the long-term.
Beginning of support
Beginning of support
No shelter or improvised/inadequate dwelling
Short term temporary accommodation
House, townhouse or flat - couch surfer or with no tenure
Public or community housing - renter or rent free
Private or other housing - renter, rent free or owner
Total at risk
Total clients with known housing situation
Source: Specialist Homelessness Services Collection. Supplementary table LCARE.4.
For clients who were at risk of homelessness at the beginning of support and with known housing status at the end of support (around 2,900 clients), by the end of support (Figure LCARE.1):
Source: Specialist Homelessness Services Collection, 2019–20
For clients who were known to be homeless at the beginning of support and with known housing status at the end of support (around 1,000 clients), by the end of support, SHS agencies assisted (Interactive Tableau visualisation):
50 clients (5%) who were known to be homeless at the beginning of support were staying in institutional settings at the end of support.
AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) 2020. Child protection Australia 2018–19. Cat. no. CWS 74. Canberra: AIHW.
Brackertz N, Wilkinson A & Davison J 2018. Housing, homelessness and mental health: towards systems change. Melbourne: Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute.
CFFR (Council on Federal Financial Relations) 2018. National Housing and Homelessness Agreement. Viewed 7 August 2020, .
FaHCSIA (Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs) 2011. An outline of National Standards for out-of-home care: a priority project under the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009–2020. Canberra: FaHCSIA.
McDowall JJ 2009. CREATE report card 2009 – Transitioning from care: tracking progress. Sydney: CREATE Foundation.
Nielssen OB, Stone W, Jones NM, Challis S, Nielssen A, Elliott G, Burns N, Rogoz A, Cooper LE & Large MM 2018. Characteristics of people attending psychiatric clinics in inner Sydney homeless hostels, The Medical Journal of Australia 208(4): 169-173.
Wilkins R, Laß I, Butterworth P & Vera-Toscano E 2019. The Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey: selected findings from waves 1 to 17. Melbourne: Melbourne Institute.
Wood L, Flatau P, Zaretzky K, Foster S, Vallesi S & Miscenko, D 2016. What are the health, social and economic benefits of providing public housing and support to formerly homeless people? AHURI Final Report No. 265. Melbourne: Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute Limited.
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