This study has examined the factors that contribute to homelessness in Australia; identified some indicators that are associated with these risk factors; and then used these indicators to identify a ‘risk of homelessness’ index. This index can then be used to identify areas where there is a high risk of homelessness, so that policies can be better targeted to these areas. Once an area has been identified using the index, the indicators can be used to identify what risk factors exist in that area, and this can then inform any policies as they can be more targeted to the specific risk factors.
The literature review identified a number of pathways into homelessness, including housing crisis; family breakdown; mental health; substance abuse; labour markets; social networks; structural factors; previous homelessness; and youth. A number of available indicators were then identified for a number of these pathways, and these indicators were grouped into domains.
These domains were then combined into an index, using statistical techniques, depending on how correlated the indicators were to each other.
The final indexes were then mapped, allowing users to identify areas with a high risk of homelessness. Two indexes were created, due to data limitations in a number of States. In the literature review, domestic violence came up as a significant risk factor for homelessness, so where data on domestic violence was available (NSW, ACT and Qld), a separate index was constructed incorporating domestic violence. Because these data were not available in all States, the main index uses the proportion of sole parent families as a proxy, with availability for all States and Territories.
Overall, we found that the NT and Tasmania had the highest proportion of people living in areas with the greatest risk of homelessness. There was also a greater proportion of people outside capital cities living with in areas with the highest risk of homelessness.
This report was authored by Gabriela D’Souza, Robert Tanton, Annie Abello Itismita Mohanty and Linc Thurect and prepared for Swinburne University of Technology, National Homelessness Research Agenda 2009-2013.