Census of population and housing: estimating homelessness, 2006

11 Sep 2012

This publication presents the first official Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates of the prevalence of homelessness, developed using data from the 2001 and 2006 ABS Censuses of Population and Housing.

Homelessness is not just the result of too few houses. Its causes are many and varied. Domestic violence, a shortage of affordable housing, unemployment, mental illness, family breakdown and drug and alcohol abuse all contribute to the level of homelessness in Australia.

Homelessness is not a choice.

People who are homeless are among the most marginalised people in Australia. Homelessness is one of the most potent examples of disadvantage in the community, and one of the most important markers of social exclusion. To have a socially inclusive Australia, all Australians must have the capabilities, opportunities, responsibilities and resources to learn, work, engage and have a say. Homelessness freezes people out of opportunities that most Australians enjoy.

Effective targeting of policies and services for reducing homelessness and allowing all Australians to participate in society requires transparent, consistent and repeatable statistics. However, people who are homeless are among the most difficult to collect statistics from.

This publication presents estimates of the number of people enumerated in the Census who were most likely to have been homeless on Census Night, 8 August 2006 as well as estimates of homelessness on Census Night in 2001. Not withstanding the limitations of the Census variables for the analysis of homelessness, the estimates presented in this publication have been compiled on a transparent and generally consistent basis so that they can be compared over time to track increases or decreases in homelessness. Any unavoidable inconsistencies in methodology are described and broadly quantified so that users can understand any limitations in comparisons over time.

The estimates of the characteristics and living arrangements of those who were most likely to have been homeless on Census Night also provide a picture of the nature and changing composition of the homeless population.

This publication also presents Census based estimates for people in some marginal housing categories that are close to the boundary of homelessness to present homelessness within a continuum of marginal housing living situations.

Whilst homelessness itself is not a characteristic that is directly measured in the Census, estimates of the homeless population may be derived from the Census using analytical techniques based on both the characteristics observed in the Census and assumptions about the way people may respond to Census questions.

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