The Definition of Homelessness

The Australian Bureau of Statistics uses the following definitions:

  • (a)  primary homelessness: all people without conventional shelter, such as people living on the streets, sleeping in parks, squatting in derelict buildings, or using cars or improvised dwellings for shelter.
  • (b)  secondary homelessness:  people who are staying in any form of temporary accommodation with no other secure housing elsewhere (eg staying temporarily with friends or relatives, staying at a Shelter, staying temporarily at a Boarding House)
  • (c)  tertiary homelessness refers to occupants of single rooms in private boarding houses who live there for more than three months.  They are considered homeless because their accommodation does not have the characteristic identified in the minimum community standard – they do not have their own bathroom and kitchen, a separate room for eating and sleeping, and security of tenure provided by a lease.

How many people in South Australia are homeless?

According to 1996 Census, there was a total of  6837 homeless people in South Australia on Census night.

734 were in the primary homeless category.

However, new figures from the 2001 Census estimates there were 1322 people sleeping rough, up by 588.

Of these 1322 people:

  •     230 were in Metropolitan Adelaide
  •     581 were in The Far North of SA
  •     186 were in The Riverland
  •     325 were in other parts of South Australia

In 1996, there were 4771 secondary homeless people on Census night.

Of these 4771 people

  •     1518 were in SAAP accommodation
  •     3253 were staying with other families

There were 1332 tertiary homeless people on the 1996 Census night

Those people seeking help from SAAP in 2000-01 included

  •   3450 males
  •   4050 females
  •   250 couples

Who are homeless?

It is difficult to define the entire homeless population but the characteristics people who used the Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP) funded services for 1999 – 2000 were as follows:-

  • more women(55%) than men(45%) were helped by the Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP)
  • 36% of the service users were under 25 years of age and 86% were under 45
  • 16% were from an Indigenous background, although they only make 1.6% of the population, or 58.9 per 10,000 people
  • people from non-English speaking backgrounds constituted 11% of the people who used SAAP services, compared to their 16% of the Australian population
  • 67,800 children  visited  these services

Why are people homeless?

The causes of homelessness are diverse and unpredictable, ranging from job loss, to family breakdown, to poor mental health, to domestic violence to substance abuse.
The single contributing factor to the increasing problem of homelessness in South Australia  is the lack of affordable housing.

Services for the homeless

In South Australia, there are 72 non government agencies who receive government funding to provide accommodation and support for people who are homeless, of these:

  • 17 – are in Inner City Adelaide
  • 26 – are in metropolitan Adelaide
  • 29 –  are in rural and remote areas

Many agencies depend on the goodwill of the community to provide their services and to make the transition from homelessness to home possible

Local communities have an important role in combating homelessness.  Individuals and organisations can contribute by actively:

  • Supporting agencies that provide accommodation and support for people who are homeless.
  • Becoming better informed about homelessness and what is needed to help people make a transition from homelessness to home.
  • Joining the campaign for an increase in the availability of affordable housing.