The data presented in this report show that government-funded specialist homelessness agencies are operating to capacity and are unable to completely meet the expressed demand for accommodation. Some groups, such as families, experience more difficulty than others in obtaining immediate accommodation.

Turn-away rates

When purely new requests for accommodation are considered on any given day, the turn-away rates seem high, with 62% of all people who sought immediate accommodation being turned away (Chapter 9). But new requests comprise only around 4% of the total demand for accommodation (new requests plus all people currently in accommodation).

When considered in terms of the total demand for accommodation, just under 2% (1.7%) of all people who sought immediate accommodation were newly accommodated on any given day while close to 3% (2.7%) were turned away.

The small number of people not accommodated relative to the total expressed demand for accommodation suggests that a small increase in the number of places available on an average day could have a significant impact on the level of unmet demand. However, there is sufficient evidence to suggest that the answer is more complex than this.

For example, many people who are turned away are likely to require accommodation for more than one night, on average 54 days. On this basis, if all people turned away on an average day were provided with accommodation, then these beds would not become available again for an average of 54 days.

In addition, as supply increases, so too might the demand for that accommodation. There will always be a ‘hidden need’ for accommodation caused by people not seeking assistance when they need it.

Are the accommodation needs of existing clients being met?

Agencies were able to provide specialist homelessness accommodation directly to existing clients and their accompanying children in most cases during the periods data were collected (88% and 82%, respectively) (Chapter 2). When accommodation could not be provided directly, referrals to other organisations were arranged in 6% and 9% of cases, respectively. The accommodation need remained unmet in 5% of cases for clients and in 9% of cases for accompanying children.

Why was accommodation not provided?

The majority of valid unmet requests for accommodation occurred because there was a lack of accommodation (84%) (Chapter 3). This was highest for family groups with children.