New figures reveal deepening homelessness crisis

Posted on 12 Dec 2023

By Greg Thom, journalist, Institute of Community Directors Australia


The number of Australians tipped into homelessness has surged over the past year, new figures show.

An analysis of Australian Institute of Health and Welfare statistics by Homelessness Australia revealed the trend is being driven by skyrocketing rents and record low vacancy rates.

The research showed that the number of homeless people seeking help increased by 5.5% in 2022–2023, threatening to overwhelm homelessness services.

Kate Colvin
Homelessness Australia CEO Kate Colvin.

The statistics also revealed:

  • a 17% increase in the proportion of people sleeping rough when they first approached homeless services
  • a 16% increase in people exiting homelessness support to enter rough sleeping
  • a 12% increase in homeless people entering institutions like prisons or acute mental health facilities.

The number of people transitioning from homelessness to private rentals dropped 2%.

Homelessness Australia CEO Kate Colvin said the statistics should serve as a wake-up call on the number of Australians doing it tough without a permanent roof over their head.

"These figures are a stark and alarming indicator of how the deepening housing crisis is pushing more Australians to sleep in their car, pitch a tent or couch surf,” she said.

“It’s very hard to work or learn when you have no roof over your head or a real prospect of getting a home.”

"Australians are facing a housing and cost of living crisis that is pushing more people into homelessness.”
Homelessness Australia CEO Kate Colvin.

Ms Colvin said data also revealed that homelessness service capacity barely increased in 2022–23, despite surging demand.

Homelessness Australia's submission to the federal government's National Housing and Homelessness Plan.

The number of homeless people supported across the year increased 1.3% from 272,694 to 273,648. A lot more people – 290,462 – were helped when funding to homelessness services was temporarily increased during the covid pandemic.

Ms Colvin said compounding the problem was a looming $73 million funding black hole for homelessness services.

This relates to federal funding for the Equal Remuneration Order (ERO) for homelessness services workers. The funding to supplement the wages of workers in the sector is due to expire in June 2024.

"Australians are facing a housing and cost-of-living crisis that is pushing more people into homelessness,” said Ms Colvin.

“Without more funding for critical homelessness first responders, we risk seeing these trends worsen, putting more Australians in jeopardy of experiencing the harsh realities of homelessness.”

As Canberra works on its National Housing and Homelessness Plan, Ms Colvin said Australia needs a realistic blueprint to end homelessness within a decade.

“Ending homelessness is entirely doable, as we saw during covid,” she said.

“We need substantial investment in social housing, sustained focus on the causes of homelessness, and a significant boost in funding for homelessness support services.”

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