1 in 200 Australians Homeless on Census Night 2021

More than 122,000 people in Australia experienced homelessness on Census night, an increase of 5.2 per cent from 2016, according to data released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

Georgia Chapman, ABS head of homelessness statistics, said this represents 48 people experiencing homelessness for every 10,000 people, compared with 50 people for every 10,000 in 2016.

“The 2021 Census gives us a unique snapshot of people experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“Measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 throughout 2021 contributed to some of the changes in the homelessness data that we’ve released today.

“During the 2021 Census, we saw fewer people ‘sleeping rough’ in improvised dwellings, tents or sleeping out, and fewer people in living in ‘severely’ crowded dwellings and staying temporarily with other households.

“However, we saw more people living in supported accommodation for the homeless, boarding houses and other temporary lodgings, such as a hotel or motel,” Ms Chapman said.

Males still make up the majority of those experiencing homelessness, with 68,000 or 55 in every 10,000 males in 2021. This was less than 2 per cent more than 2016. Meanwhile, the number of females experiencing homelessness increased by around 10 per cent from 2016 to almost 54,000, or 42 in every 10,000 females.

Kate Colvin, Homelessness Australia CEO, said the Census offers a critical insight into the prevalence of homelessness around Australia.

“This data is enormously valuable to inform the community, homelessness support services and government decision-makers about homelessness need in our community,” she said.

Graph 1. People experiencing homelessness by operational groups(a), Australia, 2006 to 2021

People living in improvised dwellings, tents or sleeping out7,2526,8108,2007,636
People in supported accommodation for the homeless17,33421,25821,23524,291
People staying temporarily with other households17,66117,37417,72516,597
People living in boarding houses(b)15,45914,94417,50322,137
People in other temporary lodging(b)5016826783,934
People living in ‘severely’ crowded dwellings(c)31,52741,37051,08847,895

Please note that there are small random adjustments made to all cell values to protect the confidentiality of data. These adjustments may cause the sum of rows or columns to differ by small amounts from table totals.

  1. Categories are mutually exclusive; therefore, people will only appear in one category.
  2. Data for 2021 is not directly comparable with previous Censuses due to improvements in data quality through greater use of administrative data.

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