While housing alone will not end homelessness, research consistently shows that access to affordable housing is critical. AHURI’s research on housing affordability and increasing housing supply is an important part of efforts to end homelessness.
AHURI has also made a significant contribution to other areas of homelessness research. Projects have demonstrated the cost-effectiveness of homelessness assistance, examined the nature of homelessness for various groups of people and analysed the effectiveness of particular homelessness policy interventions.
What is homelessness in the Australian context?
- In Australia, there is broad agreement in research and government policy that homelessness is not simply people sleeping on the streets. A commonly used definition includes three categories:
- people without conventional shelter such as rough-sleepers or squatters
- people who are constantly moving between temporary accommodations such as emergency shelters or family and friends’ couches
- people who have long-term accommodation without access to private cooking facilities or bathrooms, and without any security of tenure.
- The best estimate suggests that 105 237 Australians were homeless on Census night, 2011 ( Census of Population and Housing: Estimating Homelessness 2011 (cat. no. 2049.0)).
- AHURI research examining Indigenous homelessness finds that the definition above does not necessarily reflect Indigenous understandings, and that homelessness could be better redefined as losing one’s sense of control over, or legitimacy in, the place where one lives. Three broad categories of Indigenous homelessness emerged from the research:
How can we best address the issue of homelessness?
- Research has been conducted with a variety of different groups, including: older people ( Project 70135 ), people with a mental illness ( Project 70072 ), newly arrived migrants ( Project 40006 & Project 40048 ), ex-prisoners ( Project 70068 ), Indigenous people and young people in rural areas ( Project 40160 ) and young people ( Project 70020 & Project 30156 ) leaving care ( Project 30540 ). Consistently the research finds that addressing homelessness requires more than the provision of a house.
- Adequate and appropriate housing along with support services that address non-housing needs is critical to preventing future episodes of homelessness. Location is also important to sustaining tenancies and preventing homelessness as access to familiar services and social networks can reduce social isolation for people.
- AHURI research indicates that addressing homelessness is cost-effective ( Project 80306 ). For example, homeless people with complex needs impose a greater cost burden on support services compared to clients in stable, secure housing with similar needs. Further research indicates that homelessness programs are cost-effective as they produce positive outcomes for clients. For example, those at-risk of becoming homeless when they lack support will overwhelmingly sustain their tenancies with support.