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The state of homelessness in Australia's cities

A health and social cost too high 2018
Homelessness Social disadvantage Rough sleepers Australia

Since 2010, Australian homelessness services, largely operating in the inner city areas of Australian cities, have undertaken interviews with over 8,000 people sleeping rough or otherwise homeless in concentrated data collection efforts called Registry Weeks. First implemented by US homelessness services as part of campaigns to end homelessness in US cities, Registry Weeks aim to develop a register of those who are homeless in areas in which homelessness services operate using a common interview schedule. The purpose of the register is for those who are homeless to be known by name and for their housing, health and social needs to be recognised to facilitate the organisation of local services to assist people into permanent housing with necessary supports.

The Australian homelessness services that initiated Registry Weeks in Australia shared the principles of evidence-based responses to homelessness, a focus on Housing First and rapid re-housing approaches, and the development of initiatives informed by robust data and research. The Vulnerability Index (VI) instrument, and following that, the VISPDAT (Service Prioritisation Decision Assistance Tool) were used in Registry Week collections as the means of collecting data. Findings from Registry Weeks have assisted agencies to prioritise services to those most in need. In recent times, homelessness agencies have moved away from conducting the VI-SPDAT interviews in set weeks and are now conducting interviews on a rolling basis.

Over the seven years that the VI-SPDAT has been administered (2010-2017), 8,618 interviews have been conducted with 8,370 people experiencing homelessness across Australian capital cities and regional centres.

The State of Homelessness in Australia’s Cities: A Health and Social Cost Too High represents the first analysis of the consolidated Registry Week data across Australia. The consolidated Registry Week data provides the largest and richest collection of information on people experiencing homelessness in Australian capital and regional cities outside the Census and the national administrative data for homelessness services, the Specialist Homelessness Services Collection.

The report aims to:

1. Provide a profile of the backgrounds of people experiencing homelessness in Australia.

2. Examine the length of time those interviewed have spent homeless and have been without stable accommodation.

3. Assess the medical conditions and healthcare needs of those experiencing homelessness, their current use of healthcare, and the accompanying costs to the healthcare system.

4. Understand the history of interaction with the justice system of those experiencing homelessness, and their current exposure to harm and risk.

5. Examine the financial circumstances of those experiencing homelessness and their social needs.

6. Detail in the words of those interviewed what they feel they need in order to be safe and well.

7. Provide recommendations for future strategies and studies that aim to inform best practice approaches to ending homelessness in Australia.

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