Homelessness in Western Australia: a review of the research and statistical evidence

Homelessness Homeless youth Western Australia

This report presents an overview of homelessness in Western Australia: its nature, composition, antecedents and consequences, and the policy and practice responses that we believe should be considered address it. We review and consolidate evidence and extant knowledge from various statistical sources, academic research, evaluation reports, the lived experience of those who experience homelessness, and recent guiding frameworks provided by the Western Australian and Commonwealth Governments, as well as The Western Australian Strategy to End Homelessness published recently by the Western Australian Alliance to End Homelessness (Western Australian Alliance to End Homelessness [WAAEH], 2018).

The report has the following five objectives:
1. To synthesise the evidence base on the scale, scope and profile of homelessness in Western Australia;
2. To outline the key drivers and causes of homelessness;
3. To analyse the current approaches to addressing homelessness in Western Australia and their effectiveness;
4. To identify system level gaps in responses to homelessness and key research and evidence gaps; and,
5. To provide guidance in terms of a way forward towards addressing homelessness in a Western Australian context.

After an introduction that strategically positions the report, we discuss the different approaches to defining and measuring homelessness and their relative value and shortcomings. We then draw evidence from the major national homelessness collections; namely, the Australian Bureau of Statistics Census of Population and Housing, the Specialist Homelessness Services collection, the national Registry Week data as reported in The State of Homelessness in Australia’s Cities report (Flatau et al., 2018) and the General Social Survey to provide a profile of homelessness in Western Australia.

We then examine the drivers and structure of homelessness focusing on the strata of the population overrepresented or disproportionately affected by homelessness. Health and justice drivers, which manifest as both antecedents and consequences of homelessness, are also reviewed, followed by an analysis of the social and economic costs of homelessness. Drawing on the academic literature and program and policy evaluations, evidence-based principles for effective homelessness interventions are presented.

The final two chapters of this review outline a potential path forward in terms of addressing homelessness in Western Australia. First, the needs to be addressed in the Western Australian homelessness context, along with the strengths and gaps in the Western Australian homelessness service system are discussed. Then, five strategic target areas for future responses to homelessness in Western Australia are presented. The report is tied together with a conclusion.

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