During Homelessness Week (August 1-7) and mid-lockdowns, Mission Australia is urging all people experiencing homelessness – including those experiencing hidden homelessness who may not have been aware of it – to participate and accurately record their living situation on Census night on 10 August so the severity of the issue is adequately represented.

The ABS statistical definition of homelessness is ‘… when a person does not have suitable accommodation alternatives, they are considered homeless if their current living arrangement:

  • is in a dwelling that is inadequate;
  • 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’ 

Five years ago, the 2016 Census showed 116,427 people across the country were without a safe, secure place to sleep at night.

Mission Australia CEO, James Toomey said: “Contrary to common belief, homelessness goes beyond those who we see sleeping on the streets or in their cars – in fact these people who were rough sleeping only made up seven per cent of the 116,000 people who were homeless on Census night five years ago.

The bigger picture is that most people and families experiencing homelessness are hidden from plain sight. We know from the most recent Census data that the majority are living in severely crowded dwellings, couch surfing temporarily with friends or family, or living in crisis accommodation, a shelter, refuge or boarding house.

“To gauge the severity of the problem in 2021 and better understand how COVID-19 and the housing crisis has affected homelessness numbers in Australia, we call on everyone who is living in insecure, unsafe and temporary places to participate in the Census and have their voices counted.

“For the Census data to truly reflect the extent of homelessness, it is important that everyone who is homeless – including those who may not previously have realised they’re homeless – report their living situation accurately.”

Mr Toomey says people should follow the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ advice to accurately report on their living situation on Census night.

“In response to the ‘Where does the person usually live?’ question, anyone who is without a safe, secure home on Census night should record their suburb as ‘NONE’. This applies to people who are sleeping rough, as well as people who are couch surfing or if they are away from home due to eviction or a family dispute. If a housing or homelessness service has provided a person or family with temporary accommodation, they are encouraged to write ‘NONE – CRISIS’ under ‘Suburb/Locality’.

By accurately reporting the scale of the homelessness problem in Australia, we can gain a greater understanding of what actions are sorely needed to end homelessness in our nation altogether.

Mr Toomey said he expects the number of people experiencing homelessness in 2021 to rise.

“There are many reasons why people face homelessness – for some it’s family breakdown, domestic and family violence, job loss or financial or psychological distress, while for others it’s simply the sheer lack of affordable housing.

“Many of Mission Australia’s services are at capacity, with social housing waitlists ballooning. There simply aren’t enough safe, secure homes to house everyone.

“Right now we know that there is a severe lack of available affordable rentals in regional, rural and remote areas. Many towns and regional cities are experiencing rental vacancy rates below one per cent. This means that affordable housing is almost non-existent for people on low incomes.

“On the frontline, we’re seeing far too many people and families being pushed into homelessness, many for the first time in their lives. They’re living in overcrowded homes, crisis accommodation, or even in tents or their car. They might be sleeping in their relative’s shed or on their grandchildren’s bedroom floor.

We are still dealing with the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and in many states and territories, too many people are on the cusp of homelessness as they grapple with escalating rents, limited availability of affordable homes and the lifting of bans prohibiting evictions.

“People should not be forced into homelessness in a wealthy nation like ours. I encourage everyone to join me and the thousands of others who are calling on political leaders far and wide to make the changes needed to end homelessness.

“I also encourage those who want to call for solutions to end to homelessness to join the Everybody’s Home campaign at everybodyshome.com.au.”

Media contact: Lauren Gillin 0475 959 494 – This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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