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New ABS Figures Released

Homelessness in Australia: Census data shows the fight against homelessness not over yet

12 November 2012

Data released today by the ABS supports The Salvation Army view of the continuing need for a strong national approach if we are serious about reducing homelessness across Australia.

The Salvation Army in the Southern Territory (VIC, TAS, SA, WA & NT)) operates more than 100 homeless services across the four states and the Northern Territory as part of an extensive community services network of more than 600 programmes. 

In the last quarter (July – September 2012) over 7,000 people who were homeless were assisted by The Salvation Army throughout the Territory. This included young people, families and homeless single men and women. Many of the people we assist also need support with substance abuse or mental health issues, and almost everyone is seeking affordable accommodation. 

While the ABS data indicates an increase in the overall numbers of homeless people since the last census, the rise in those staying in supported accommodation services (20 per cent) indicates that policy and funding efforts to reduce rough sleeping are working (now down to 6 per cent of homeless). 

However, the increase in homelessness due to severe overcrowding remains of concern and may be indicative of the ongoing crisis of housing affordability. 

“The Salvation Army believes that the progressive policies and new programmes introduced to address homelessness to date are a result of strong partnerships and strategies introduced by governments and the community sector. But more needs to be done,” said The Salvation Army’s Territorial Director of Social Programme, Netty Horton. 

As an example, one of The Salvation Army’s programs that work with people sleeping rough has found a permanent home for 53 people over the last twelve months.  With a retention rate of 91%, this is a significant achievement for a program working with people who may have been sleeping rough for many years and who have had very complex needs.  

It is critical that the support across government and the community is maintained and strengthened to ensure that the numbers of homeless people do not increase further. In particular The Salvation Army is calling on State and Commonwealth Governments to forge a new National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness as a priority.

“This agreement is the mechanism through which government monies are provided to fund homeless services and expires in June 2013.  Without these funds, the numbers of homeless people in Australia could vastly increase, and The Salvation Army would be gravely concerned about the impact on its capacity to meet the needs of homeless people,” said Ms Horton.