Older clients

People aged 55 or older comprised 7% of all clients (18,741 people) of specialist homelessness services in 2014–15. Specialist homelessness service use by this group is increasing with numbers up 25% since the collection began in 2011–12.

Older clients: trends over time

Since the beginning of the SHS collection in 2011–12 the number of older clients seeking assistance from specialist homelessness services has increased. Key trends identified in this client population over the 4 years are:

  • The rate of service use by older clients has increased from 7 older clients per 10,000 population to 8 per 10,000.
  • This group represents one of the growing populations seeking assistance from specialist homelessness agencies. While the proportion of older clients is small (7% in 2014–15) this client group has experienced an average annual growth rate of 8% each year.
  • The median number of days older clients need support has increased, suggesting these clients are presenting with potentially more complex issues taking longer to resolve and are having greater difficulty in finding suitable housing.

Table 1: Older clients (55 years and older): at a glance-trends over time

  2011–12 2012–13 2013–14 2014–15
Number of clients (proportion of all clients) 15,052 (6%) 17,193 (7%) 18,182 (7%) 18,741 (7%)
Rate (per 10,000 population) 6.7 7.6 7.9 8.0
Housing situation at the beginning of first support period (all clients)
Homeless: At risk of homelessness 31%: 69% *33%: 67% *33%: 67% 33%: 67%
Living arrangement
Lone person 61% 61% 60% 59%
Sole parent 7% 7% 8% 8%
Couple with child/ren 4% 4% 4% 5%
Couple without children 12% 11% 11% 11%
Other family group 16% 16% 17% 18%
Main reason for seeking assistance (Top 3)
Financial difficulties 22% 22% 21% 18%
Domestic and family violence 17% 15% 17% 18%
Housing crisis 11% 14% 15% 18%
Proportion receiving accommodation (median (nights)) 22% (30) 22% (34) *21% (33) 20% (31)
Number of support periods (average per client) 20,222 (1.3) 25,875 (1.5) 26,731 (1.5) 27,811 (1.5)
Average (median) length of support (days) 64 (17) 71 (18) *69 (21) 66 (24)
Proportion of a client group with a case management plan 47% *42% *45% 49%
Achievement of all case management goals 30% 30% *30% 31%


  1. Rates are crude rates based on the Australian estimated resident population (ERP) at 30 June of the reference year.

  2. * Indicates where previously published data have been revised to ensure consistent reporting over time. 2011–12 data were revised in December 2013 but not previously reported in this format.

  3. The denominator for the proportion achieving all case management goals is the number of client groups with a case management plan. Denominator values for proportions are provided in the relevant national supplementary table.

Source: Specialist homelessness services Annual Reports 2011–12, 2012–13, 2013–14 and 2014–15.

Characteristics of older clients

Similar numbers of male and female

older clients sought support from specialist homelessness agencies in 2014–15.

  • In 2014–15 older clients were more likely than the broader SHS population to be male (46% compared with 41% of all clients). This group had a much larger proportion of lone persons compared with younger age groups.
  • Of older clients, two-thirds were aged 55–64 (66%) and the remaining one-third was 65 or over.
  • Only 4% of Indigenous clients were aged over 55 compared with 8% of non-Indigenous clients.
  • Older clients were less likely to be homeless on presentation than younger clients. For example, 33% of clients aged 55 and over were homeless on presentation compared with 43% of the broader SHS population.
  • For older clients there were 3 main reasons most commonly reported for seeking assistance: financial difficulties, domestic and family violence and housing crisis (all 18%).

In 2014–15 changes occurred in the way agencies are required to report 'main reason' and 'reasons for seeking assistance'. Comparisons over time should be made with caution as the reporting of housing crisis, financial difficulties and housing affordability stress may be inconsistent between agencies. See Technical information for further details.

Services needed and provided

  • Older clients were less likely to request accommodation services (45%) than the broader SHS population (56%). Of those who did request accommodation, most needed long term housing (33%); they were more likely to be provided with this form of accommodation (10% of those who requested it) compared with the general SHS population (6%).

Other services most commonly needed by older clients were for:

  • assistance to sustain tenancy or prevent tenancy failure or eviction (32%)
  • material aid/brokerage (30%)
  • short-term or emergency accommodation (23%) (Figure OLDER.1).

Figure OLDER.1: Older clients by most needed services and service provision status (top 6), 2014–15

Figure OLDER.1: Older clients by most needed services and service provision status (top 6), 2014–15. The stacked bar graph shows that most clients seeking assistance to sustain tenancy, material aid/brokerage, financial information and assistance for domestic/family violence were provided these services by SHS agencies. More older clients required services for long-term housing than short-term or emergency housing, however a much smaller number were provided long-term housing.

Note: Excludes 'Other basic assistance', 'Advice/information', and 'Advocacy/liaison on behalf of client'.

Source: Specialist homelessness services 2014–15, National supplementary table OLDER.3 (702KB XLS).

Housing outcomes

The most common housing outcomes for older clients with closed support periods were in:

  • public or community housing (28%)—an increase from 20% at the beginning of support (Figure OLDER.2)
  • no shelter or improvised/inadequate dwelling (12% at beginning of support)—this reduced to 7% at the end of support.

Figure OLDER.2: Older clients with closed support, by housing situation at beginning of support and end of support, 2014–15

Figure OLDER.2: Older clients with closed support, by housing situation, first and last reported, 2014–15. The bar graph shows that the largest proportion of older clients (over 40%25) where living in private or other housing, with minimal change from first to last reported support period. There was a drop from 15%25 to 10%25 for those living in no shelter or improvised/inadequate dwelling, and a rise from approximately 20%25 to nearly 30%25 of clients living in public or community housing.

Source: Specialist homelessness services 2014–15, National supplementary table OLDER.4 (702KB XLS).