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The first national longitudinal study of homelessness in Australia has revealed a 20% increase in the number of people who are sleeping rough in the past five years, with more older Australians experiencing homelessness than ever. 

The Australian Homelessness Monitor 2018, launched in Melbourne, tracks key data on rates and types of homelessness in Australia and sets a benchmark for action on Australia’s housing crisis.

Launch Housing commissioned the Monitor in conjunction with UNSW Sydney and the University of Queensland. The first of its kind in Australia, the Monitor will be compiled every two years and will inform state and federal policies to address homelessness.

“Australia’s housing market is at breaking point,” Tony Keenan, CEO of Launch Housing, said. “More people are experiencing homelessness than ever before. People face rising costs of living, high rental costs and harsher income support penalties.


A graphic presented at the launch of the Australian Homelessness Monitor.

“There has been a 14% increase in the number of people experiencing homelessness in the past five years – that is a national disgrace,” Mr Keenan said.

“That’s why we’ve commissioned this research: because homelessness is not unavoidable. This research demonstrates how policies and programs can – and do – make a difference.”

Professor Hal Pawson from the City Futures Research Centre in UNSW Built Environment led the team of researchers that included Dr Edgar Liu from the City Futures Research Centre and Professor Peter Saunders and Dr Trish Hill from UNSW’s Social Policy Research Centre.

“By combining census analysis with data on homelessness service users and local council rough-sleeper counts,” Professor Pawson said, “our report presents a powerful story on the scale and pattern of rising homelessness across our major cities.”

While national property prices have increased by 80% in the last 10 years, median household incomes have risen by just 40%. These increased housing costs have meant 613,000 people, almost 229,000 of whom are children, have fallen below the poverty line.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are 10 times more likely to experience homelessness. And there has been a 22% increase in demand for homelessness services nationwide between 2011 and 2016.

“The Australian Homelessness Monitor is a national first,” Mr Keenan said. “It provides a unique look at how policy action and inaction have impacted rising levels of homelessness.

“We must see a shared effort from the Australian government, the states and territories to address housing affordability.

“The Australian Homelessness Monitor should inform the development of a national housing plan. We need more social and affordable rental homes.”