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The rate of homelessness in Australia has increased 4.6 percent over the last five years, according to new data from the 2016 Census of Population and Housing. 

The latest estimates reveal more than 116,000 people were experiencing homelessness in Australia on Census night, representing 50 homeless persons for every 10,000 people.

Dr Paul Jelfs, General Manager of Population and Social Statistics, said that while there was an overall increase in the estimate of homelessness in Australia, this number is made up of various distinct groups and each tells a different story.

People living in ‘severely’ crowded dwellings, defined as requiring four or more extra bedrooms to accommodate the people who usually live there, was the greatest contributor to the national increase in homelessness.

“In 2016, this group accounted for 51,088 people, up from 41,370 in 2011.

“On Census night, 8,200 people were estimated to be ‘sleeping rough’ in improvised dwellings, tents or sleeping out – an increase from 3.2 persons per 10,000 people in 2011 to 3.5 persons per 10,000 people in 2016,” Dr Jelfs said.

Younger and older Australians have also emerged as groups experiencing increasing homelessness in Australia.

“One quarter of all people experiencing homelessness in 2016 was aged between 20 and 30 censuyears,” Dr Jelfs said.

People aged between 65 and 74 years experiencing homelessness increased to 27 persons per 10,000 people, up from 25 persons per 10,000 people in 2011.

Recent migrants (those who arrived within the five years prior to the 2016 Census) accounted for 15 percent of the homeless estimate. Almost three quarters of this group were living in ‘severely’ crowded dwellings and the majority came from countries in South-East Asia, North-East Asia and Southern and Central Asia, including India, China and Afghanistan.

The overall number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experiencing homelessness in 2016 was 23,437. More than two out of three were living in ‘severely’ crowded dwellings, with just less than 10 percent ‘sleeping rough’.

Dr Jelfs also acknowledged the support of service providers in enumerating the homeless.

“I would like to thank the service providers and staff who worked with the ABS to tackle the difficult challenge of enumerating this population group and maximise the quality of this important information,” Dr Jelfs said.

Further 2016 Census homelessness data can be found on the ABS website.

2016 2011 (b) 2006

2001

% change (2011 – 2016) % change (2006 – 2011) % change (2001 – 2006)
Persons living in improvised dwellings, tents, or sleeping out

8200

6810

7247

8946

20.4%

-6.0%

-19.0%

Persons in supported accommodation for the homeless

21235

21258

17329

13420

-0.1%

22.7%

29.1%

Persons staying temporarily with other households

17725

17374

17663

17880

2.0%

-1.6%

-1.2%

Persons living in boarding houses

17503

14944

15460

21300

17.1%

-3.3%

-27.4%

Persons in other temporary lodging

678

682

500

338

-0.6%

36.4%

47.9%

Persons living in ‘severely’ crowded dwellings

51088

41370

31531

33430

23.5%

31.2%

-5.7%

Total

116427

102439 89728 95314 13.7% 14.2% -5.9%
Notes
(a) Cells in this table have been randomly adjusted to avoid the release of confidential data. As result cells may not add to the totals. 
(b) Homeless estimates from 2011 for the category ‘Persons living in boarding houses’ have been revised. 

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