In the past five years, the rate of Australians aged 65 and over who have become homeless has grown from 25 in 10,000 people to 27, according to 2016 Census analysis released this week.
Australia’s rate of homelessness has now climbed to be almost on par with the UK’s, with about one in every 200 people having no fixed address.
On Census night, 116,427 people described themselves as homeless, a figure that was 13.7 per cent higher than the previous survey, said the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
The new data prompted Mission Australia chief executive James Toomey to label the figures an “international embarrassment”, which he said was caused by a lack of national political commitment to building more social housing and affordable homes.
Out of a population of around 24 million, Australia’s homelessness rate is 0.48 per cent, which while comparable to Britain’s 0.5 per cent, is much higher than rates in the US and Ireland, which are just 0.17 per cent each.
In fact, Australia has a much larger number of homeless people proportionate to the population compared with many countries.
European countries such as Italy (0.08%) and Greece (0.2%), have lower rates of homelessness than Australia. India and China have rates of 0.2 per cent or less, and Japan’s figure is a tiny 0.005 per cent.
Professor Guy Johnson, of the Urban Housing and Homelessness unit at RMIT, told YourLifeChoices that not too much should be read into measurements against other countries.
“It’s hard to compare rates when different places count homelessness differently,” he said.
“Many people in India for instance would be counted as homeless if a similar definition to what we use here was applied.”
The ABS General Manager of Population and Social Statistics, Dr Paul Jelfs, said in a statement that “while there was an overall increase in the estimate of homelessness in Australia, this number was made up of various distinct groups and each tells a different story’’.
Some 8200 of the more than 116,000 self-described homeless people were sleeping rough on Census night, which was down six per cent on the previous period. The biggest category, at over 51,000, said they were sleeping in overcrowded houses. More than 38,700 were living in boarding houses or other accommodation for the homeless, and 17,700 were temporarily staying in other people’s homes.
Have you ever had a close brush with homelessness? Do you think more social housing needs to be built? Has the Government done enough to help the homeless?