Who Can Become Homeless?
Homelessness can affect any member of the Tasmanian community, including the very young or elderly, families and single people, Aboriginal people and people from culturally diverse backgrounds.
The most common reasons for homelessness in Tasmania (2012-13) are financial difficulties (21%), interpersonal relations – including domestic violence (26%) and accommodation crisis (32%).
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. Homeless people 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, AIHW Specialist Homelessness Services reports (National and Tasmanian) for 2012-13, and the Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision (SCRGSP) 2013, Report on Government Services 2013.
Demographics in Tasmania
In 2011 the total number of homeless people was 1,579 (an increase from 1,145 in 2006). The regional breakdown shows greater Hobart has the highest proportion, at 744 persons (47%); Launceston and the NE have 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 homeless people in Tasmania by region
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 homeless persons, by State and Territory, 2011
In 2011 the majority of homeless people in Tasmania were aged under 44 years old. 12 to 25 year olds comprise approximately one quarter of all Tasmanian homeless people. The next highest age group were those aged between 25-34 years (16%) and 35-44 (15%) (fig 3).
Figure 3. Age distribution of homeless population in Tasmania 2011
The majority of Tasmania’s 1,579 homeless people were staying temporarily with other households (501, 32%) or living in supported accommodation (479, 30%). 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 homeless population in Tasmania 2011
In 2011, there were 157 residents in caravan parks recorded in Tasmania. This is a slight decrease since 2006, and represents approximately 10% of the total homeless population.
19,600 people identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander in Tasmania (3.96% of total Tasmanian population). Of these, 46% of people lived in the South, 33% in the North West and 20% in the North. Aboriginal people are overrepresented in all sections of the homeless population in Tasmania; in 2011, 11% (170) of all homeless people identified as Aboriginal.
Specialist Homelessness Services
Approximately 60% of Government funded 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 homeless people to (re)establish themselves in independent living. These services also provide information and advice, advocacy and financial supports.
In 2012-13, an estimated 5,585 Tasmanians received support from an SHS. Of these, 3,860 presented alone, and 1,725 were some form of family group (fig 8). 791 clients identified as Aboriginal. Compared with 2011-12, there has been a slight decrease in overall presentations (from 6,175), an increase in the number of singles presenting (from 3,540), and corresponding decrease in family presentations (from 2,064).
In 2012-13 the rate of unmet need (when a homeless person or someone at risk of homelessness asks for assistance and it cannot be provided) for short-term or emergency accommodation was 21% (just slightly higher than the national average of 20%), which is the third highest rate in Australia after the Australian Capital Territory (46%) and Victoria (29%). These are very similar to 2011-12 figures.
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 homeless persons.
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 2013, the State of Affordable Housing in Tasmania 2013 document, and the Homelessness Fact Sheet on this website. Or contact Shelter Tasmania direct on 6224 5488.
Useful Websites and Documents:
Australian Bureau of Statistics, Census of Population and Housing: Estimating Homelessness 2011, Tasmania.
AIHWSpecialist Homelessness Services Collection Annual Report.
Two fact sheets from Shelter Tas: a short summary of homelessness and services in Tasmania or a longer document with more detailed facts and figures.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). Specialist Homelessness Services Collection Annual Report: Tasmania Supplementary Tables 2012-13, Table Tas2.2.
AIHW. Specialist Homelessness Services Collection 2012-13, Figure 6.8.