Hearts and homes: public perceptions of homelessness summary report

Homelessness affordable housing Community attitudes Victoria


All Victorians have a right to safe and secure housing; a place they can call home. It is the foundation upon which strong individuals, healthy families and resilient communities are built. However, for some Victorians the reality is quite different.

Victoria is experiencing unprecedented levels of housing stress and homelessness. According to 2016 ABS Census data released in March 2018, more than 24,000 Victorians were homeless on census night.

This includes people sleeping rough, living in emergency or temporary accommodation - including people staying with friends and relatives - and people living in severely overcrowded dwellings. This represents an increase of 11.3 per cent or 2,500 people since 2011.

Homelessness affects people of all ages and stages of their life. Census data shows a 23 per cent increase in homelessness among people aged 55 and over in Victoria, while almost 40 per cent of people counted as homeless were under 25 years of age.

A problem this complex requires a whole of community response and a partnership approach. To engage members of the community in addressing this problem, we need to understand people's existing attitudes towards Victorians experiencing homelessness.

To explore this, the Department of Health and Human Services engaged WhiteGREY and Colmar Brunton to research people's perceptions and views on homelessness. We wanted to find out how important the issue is for Victorians, what they thought the causes and drivers were, what they thought the most important and effective responses were, and who is, or should, be providing that response to help some of our most vulnerable citizens.

Key findings

  • Victorians care deeply about the welfare of those who are experiencing homelessness. A majority of those surveyed want to, and do, give help.
  • Victorians are more likely to attribute personal issues such as drug and alcohol use as the reason why people are experiencing homelessness. They generally have a lesser understanding of key systemic causes, such as the availability of social housing.
  • A majority of people think short-term interventions like food, blankets and clothing are the most necessary help. They are less aware of the critical need for housing and health supports.
  • People are unsure of the role government and business can play to solve homelessness.
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