Vulnerable young people, such as those with a history of traumatic family experiences or involvement in the criminal justice system, are more likely than their peers to experience homelessness. In an effort to better understand the characteristics of these vulnerable children and young people, data were linked from the Specialist Homelessness Services Collection for the period 2011–12 to 2014–15, the Child Protection National Minimum Data Set for 2013–14 and the Juvenile Justice National Minimum Data Set for 2011–12 to 2013–14.

From this linked data set, 3 matched cohorts were identified—the specialist homelessness service and child protection (SHS-CP) cohort, the specialist homelessness service and youth justice (SHS-YJ) cohort and the specialist homelessness service, child protection and youth justice (SHS-CP-YJ) cohort—as well as 3 corresponding SHS-only cohorts for comparison.

The analysis examined the demographics, personal circumstances, service provision and housing outcomes of the 3 matched cohorts and their equivalent SHS-only client cohorts. It showed that individuals in all 3 cohorts experienced multiple levels of disadvantage, at greater levels than the SHS-only clients. All matched cohorts were more likely than their SHS-only comparison groups to:

  • report having substance use issues
  • report having mental health issues
  • have an over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
  • receive more days of SHS support and more SHS support periods on average.

Clients in the SHS-CP cohort were more likely than clients in the equivalent SHS-only cohort to be experiencing domestic and family violence and to be in stable housing following SHS support

  • Over half (54%) of these clients were experiencing domestic and family violence. This was higher than the proportion of SHS-only clients (44%).
  • Almost one-third (32%) of these clients were housed in social housing following SHS support. They were also more likely to have requests for accommodation met than the SHS-only cohort (82% compared with 74%).

Clients in the SHS-YJ cohort were more likely than clients in the equivalent SHS-only cohort to report having a drug and/or alcohol issue, and to end SHS support sleeping rough

  • Almost one-third (32%) reported experiencing substance misuse issues. This was almost 5 times the proportion of clients in the SHS-only cohort (7%).
  • For those whose housing situation at the end of SHS support was known, over 1 in 20 (6%) of the SHS-YJ cohort were sleeping rough, compared with 4% of the SHS-only cohort.

Clients in the SHS-CP-YJ cohort were more likely than clients in the SHS-only cohort to report having a mental health issue and have repeat episodes of homelessness

  • Over 2 in 5 (42%) reported having a mental health issue, which was twice the proportion of clients in the SHS-only cohort (20%).
  • Seventeen per cent had more than 1 episode of homelessness over the 4 years to 2014–15, which was much higher than the SHS-only cohort (6%).