Media Release by The Hon Brendan O’Connor MP

ABS figures show a reduction in the number of rough sleepers

Minister for Housing and Homelessness Brendan O’Connor reaffirmed the Gillard Government’s commitment to tackling homelessness following today’s release of the latest data on homelessness by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The overall increase in homelessness between the 2006 and 2011 Census nights was largely due to a rise in the number of people sleeping in severely crowded conditions.

“While the headline increase is disappointing, there are many positive signs,” Mr O’Connor said.

“The rate of rough sleepers as a proportion of the population dropped by 13.5 per cent, from 3.7 per 10,000 people to 3.2 per cent.

“There has also been a significant decrease in the rate of Indigenous homelessness, from 571 to 488 Indigenous homeless people per 10,000 Indigenous people — a 14.5 per cent drop in in just five years.

“The number of people in supported accommodation rose by 23 per cent, which shows that services are now better responding to the needs of people who are struggling to maintain secure and stable housing than they were five years ago.

“These figures are very promising and show real progress towards reducing the number of people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

“The Gillard Government remains steadfast in its commitment to halving the rate of homelessness by 2020.

“We have invested an unprecedented $20 billion in housing and homelessness services and programs since coming to office.

“We have made a direct financial contribution to one in every 20 homes built around the nation since 2008 through the Social Housing Initiative, the National Rental Affordability Scheme, the Housing Affordability Fund and the Building Better Regional Cities program.

“We have built 21,000 new social homes and carried out repairs and maintenance on 80,000 existing homes, 12,000 of which would have been uninhabitable without this work.

“We’ve also been working with States and Territories, business, charities and the community through the $1.1 billion National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness.

“While the ABS estimate is an important piece of data to help us measure our progress, we will also use the more dynamic and timely information collected from specialist homelessness services by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), and Journeys Home, the first national longitudinal study of homelessness in Australia and possibly the first of its magnitude in the world.

“Combined, these figures will give us the most comprehensive picture of homelessness we have ever had, and will provide us with a better understanding of the reasons people become homeless, and how we can help them get back on their feet.”