You are here: HomeNeed HelpHomelessness Support ServicesNational Homelessness Week › Homelessness Statistics

Homelessness statistics  

The Salvation Army believes everyone deserves a place to call ‘home’. Sadly, 116,000 Australians were classified as homeless on Census night (2016, ABS). The homelessness facts for Australia are a grim reality beyond the stereotypical picture of a person sleeping on the street.

In fact, only 7 per cent of people experiencing or at risk of homelessness are rough sleepers (2016, ABS).
Read on for more
Australian homelessness statistics.

What does it mean to be ‘homeless’?

When a person does not have suitable accommodation, they are considered homeless if their current living arrangement:

  • Is in a dwelling that is inadequate; or
  • Has no tenure, or if their initial tenure is short and not extendable; or
  • Does not allow them to have control of, and access to space for social relations

This may include:

  • Rough sleeping, for example on park benches, in public toilets, under bridges
  • Makeshift tents
  • Sleeping in a car
  • Staying temporarily with a friend, family member or acquaintance (couch surfing)
  • Staying at refuges or transitional housing
  • Overcrowded housing

Homelessness data – where are homeless Australians staying?

  • Severely crowded dwellings – Nearly a half (44%) of all homeless people live in ‘severely’ crowded dwellings
  • Supported accommodation for the homeless – Almost one in five (18%) homeless people live in supported accommodation for the homeless
  • With other households – Approximately 1 in 7 (15%) of homeless people stay temporarily with other households
  • In improvised dwellings, tents or sleeping out – 7% of people experiencing homelessness are rough sleepers

Homelessness facts – Reasons for presenting at a Salvation Army homelessness service

The five most common primary presenting reasons at Salvation Army homelessness services give a sense of what can cause homelessness:

  • Housing crisis (imminent eviction) – 26.5%
  • Domestic or family violence – 13.7%
  • Financial difficulties – 12.2%
  • Inadequate or inappropriate dwelling – 11.1%
  • Transition from custodial arrangements – 5.5%

Why are people homeless?

Children and youth experiencing homelessness

A large group of Australians presenting to Specialist Homelessness Services include families with young children. In 2019-20, three in 10 clients were under the age of 18. This equates to over 85,000 children. Families with children may be sleeping in cars or temporarily with friends or family – in what could be classed as a ‘severely’ crowded dwelling.

Youth homelessness statistics

  • 6 in 10 (61%) homeless youth aged 12-18 years live in ‘severely’ crowded dwellings
  • Over 42,000 young people presented alone (without an adult) to Specialist Homelessness Services in 2019-20
  • Over four in 10 young people aged 15-24 assisted by Specialist Homelessness Services in 2019-20 had a current mental health issue
  • Of the children aged 15-17 presenting alone to Specialist Homelessness Services agencies in 2019-20, over 60% were female

Find out more about our youth services
Learn more about youth homelessness

Veteran homelessness statistics

More than 5500 Australian ex-service personnel experience homelessness each year.

The Veteran Support Program – a partnership between RSL Queensland and The Salvation Army – supports ex-military personnel and their families who are struggling with homelessness, or at risk of homelessness.

In a recent six-month period, over 60 veterans were supported and more than 80 per cent secured private rentals.

Bron is a veteran who became homeless after being priced out of the private rental market. Read how the Veteran Support Program helped her. [LINK:]

How does The Salvation Army help people experiencing homelessness?

Our homelessness support services include crisis accommodation for the homeless, transitional housing and affordable housing. All of these services operate under a case work model of care – helping people to overcome their challenges and supporting them towards a more stable future.

The Salvation Army and support for the homeless figures

  • In 2019-20, The Salvation Army’s homelessness services assisted more than 41,000 people who were at risk of or experiencing homelessness and provided more than 214,000 sessions of care.
  • In 2019-20, The Salvation Army's homelessness services provided more than 797,000 emergency accommodation beds to people who were at risk of or experiencing homelessness.
  • In 2019-20, The Salvation Army provided nearly 1.6 million meals to people accessing homelessness services.
  • Between April 2020 and March 2021, The Salvation Army’s homelessness services provided more than 25,000 additional sessions of care compared to the same time the year before.

What is The Salvation Army doing to help people at risk of homelessness?

The Salvation Army’s social programs assist close to 200,000 vulnerable people every year. These services help people currently experiencing hardship or crisis such as homelessness, but also seek to address the root causes of homelessness. This includes:

  • Supporting survivors of family and domestic violence with finding a safe place to live
  • Offering practical support as well as financial coaching and counselling to people experiencing financial hardship (including in the wake of an emergency or disaster) so they can pay their rent/mortgage
  • Working with people to overcome alcohol and other drugs addictions

Find out more about The Salvation Army’s social programs and services
Learn more about the people who access our services in our latest Annual Report

Supporting people experiencing homelessness

The spiral of homelessness and heartache

Alison is no longer living in her car, but her journey isn’t over.
Read more


Safety from ‘Street to Home’ in Tasmania

A Salvo program for people sleeping rough in Hobart can make a life-saving difference
Read more


From the streets to ‘home’ again

Chook shares his personal experience about the hardship of sleeping rough for 10 years
Read more


Supporting children towards a stable future

Learn how The Salvation Army helps children in families at risk of or experiencing homelessness
Read more


Social housing and The Salvation Army

We believe that having safe, secure and affordable housing is a human right. We also believe that more social housing with access to support ends homelessness. Salvation Army research among people who accessed our Emergency Relief services between October 2020 and February 2021, revealed the following:

  • More than 9 in 10 respondents experienced housing stress, paying between 30 to more than 50% of their income on housing
  • 9 in 10 Parenting Payment recipients and 7 in 10 JobSeeker recipients experienced extreme housing stress, paying more than 50% of their income on accommodation costs
  • Overall, 43% of respondents reported their housing costs exceeded their income
  • Parenting Payment recipients had an income of $6 per day^ to live on after accommodation expenses

Read the full report “Making Ends Meet”

Salvation Army Housing works alongside other Salvo services to provide affordable housing for people experiencing homelessness.

  • In 2019-20, Salvation Army Housing provided 1182 transitional and long-term tenancies.

Find out more about Salvation Army Housing in your state


Need help today?

If you or someone you know is at risk of or experiencing homelessness, please contact us today. We have a range of supports available to youth, adults, and families with children.
Contact us


The Salvation Army Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the land on which we meet and work and pay our respect to Elders past, present and future.

We value and include people of all cultures, languages, abilities, sexual orientations, gender identities, gender expressions and intersex status. We are committed to providing programs that are fully inclusive. We are committed to the safety and wellbeing of people of all ages, particularly children.

Inclusion logo

The Salvation Army is an international movement. Our mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in his name with love and without discrimination.

13 SALVOS (13 72 58)

Gifts of $2 or more to the social work of The Salvation Army in Australia are tax deductible.Details and ABNs

Hope where it's needed most