For Homelessness Week 2017, Shelter Tas prepared a fact sheet that provides an overview of homelessness in Tasmania – Homelessness in Tasmania: The Facts.
Who Can Become Homeless?
Homelessness can affect any member of the Tasmanian community, including the very young or elderly, families and single people, Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people, people with a disability and people from culturally diverse backgrounds.
What is Homelessness?
The most commonly accepted definition of homelessness is one which comprises three categorises, to reflect the diversity of homelessness.
Primary homelessness is experienced by people without conventional accommodation (e.g. sleeping rough or in improvised dwellings, including tents).
Secondary homelessness is experienced by people who frequently move from one temporary shelter to another (e.g. emergency accommodation, youth refuge/shelter, “couch-surfing”).
Tertiary homelessness is experienced by people staying in accommodation that falls below minimum community standards (e.g. boarding houses and caravan parks).
The Effects of Homelessness
Homelessness can result in great social and economic cost to the individual and to the community. It creates great instability, leaves people vulnerable to chronic unemployment, ill health and limits their capacity to participate in the social and economic life of the community. People experiencing homelessness are often living without basic human rights being met.
Some Facts about Tasmania’s Homeless Population
The following information is derived from the ABS 2011 Census data (we are awaiting the release of homelessness data from the 2016 census, due in March 2018), AIHW Specialist Homelessness Services reports (National and Tasmanian) for 2015-16, and the Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision (SCRGSP) 2017, Report on Government Services 2017.
Demographics in Tasmania
The data from the 2011 census shows that the total number of people experiencing homelessness was 1,579 (an increase from 1,145 in 2006). The regional breakdown shows greater Hobart had the highest proportion, at 744 persons (47%); Launceston and the North East had 376 persons (24%); the West and North West coast areas a very similar 375 (24%) and the South East region 87 persons (5%).
Figure 1. Numbers of people experiencing homelessness in Tasmania by region, 2011
Tasmania has the lowest overall numbers of homelessness in Australia, but comparable rates at 31.9 persons per 10,000 of the population (fig 2).
Figure 2. Rates per 10,000 of the population of all persons experiencing homelessness, by State and Territory, 2011
On census night in 2011, the majority of people experiencing homelessness in Tasmania were aged under 44 years old. 12 to 25 year olds comprised approximately one quarter of all Tasmanian people experiencing homelessness. The next highest age group were those aged between 25-34 years (16%) and 35-44 (15%) (fig 3).
Figure 3. Age distribution of people experiencing homelessness in Tasmania, 2011
The majority of Tasmania’s 1,579 people experiencing homelessness were staying temporarily with other households (501, 32%) or living in supported accommodation (479, 30%) on census night in 2011. The remainder were rough sleeping; that is, in improvised dwellings, tents or sleeping out (155, 10%), or staying in boarding houses (241, 15%). Figure 4 provides a regional breakdown of these statistics.
Figure 4. Number of people in different sectors of the population of people experiencing homelessness in Tasmania, 2011
The data from the 2011 census showed that there were 157 residents in caravan parks recorded in Tasmania. This was a slight decrease since 2006, and represented approximately 10% of people experiencing homelessness.
Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people
19,625 people identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander in Tasmania (4.0% of total Tasmanian population). Of these, 46% of people lived in the South, 33% in the North West and 20% in the North. ASTI Tasmanians were overrepresented in all sections of the population of people experiencing homelessness in Tasmania; in 2011, 11% (170) of all people experiencing homelessness identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander.
Preliminary data from the 2016 census showed there were 23,572 people who identified as an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander in Tasmania. This represented 4.6% of Tasmania’s population of 509,965. The Tasmanian ATSI population increased by nearly 4,000 from the previous census in 2011.
Specialist Homelessness Services
Specialist Homelessness Services (SHS) in Tasmania provide housing and accommodation. This includes immediate emergency accommodation (including shelters), supervised accommodation and placement support services for young people and transitional support services for people experiencing homelessness to (re)establish themselves in independent living. These services also provide information and advice, advocacy and financial supports.
In 2015-16, an estimated 7,859 Tasmanians received support from an SHS. Of these, 2,593 presented alone, and 5,266 were some form of family group. 1,100 clients identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander. The number of Tasmanian clients has been increasing over the last 5 years, with an average increase of 5% annually.
In 2015-16 the rate of unmet need (when a person at risk of or experiencing homelessness asks for assistance and it cannot be provided) for short-term or emergency accommodation was 21 per day. Of these, 18 requests can’t be assisted because of the lack of available accommodation and 11 unassisted requests involve children.
The service most requested and unavailable is consistently short term accommodation.
What Can be Done to Address Homelessness?
Currently there are many Federal, State and Territory initiatives in place that aim to lessen and prevent homelessness. Change requires improvements in a range of areas: housing, income, employment, health, social security and the prevention of violence and discrimination.
The work of Shelter Tasmania promotes the importance of affordable housing and support for all Tasmanians, including those at risk of or experiencing homelessness.
For more information on strategies to lessen and prevent homelessness, and on homelessness in general, see the Shelter Tasmania Submission to the State Budget Process 2017-18 and the Shelter Tas Homelessness Fact Sheet. Or contact Shelter Tasmania direct on 6224 5488 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Useful Websites and Documents:
Two Shelter Tas fact sheets from 2014: a short summary of homelessness and services in Tasmania or a longer document with more detailed facts and figures.