About Homelessness

The Mercy Foundation

The Mercy Foundation works to end homelessness. The key drivers of homelessness in Australia are poverty and a lack of supply of appropriate, affordable housing. Australia is a wealthy nation and we believe that nobody in our country should endure the traumatic experience of homelessness, especially chronic homelessness. Housing and supports solve homelessness.

People counted as experiencing homelessness in Australia

The 2016 Census figures regarding homelessness were released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) in March, 2018. In 2016, the total number of people counted as homeless in Australia was 116,427. This does not mean that 116,427 people were living on the streets. People classified as homeless in the ABS census in 2016 were:

Rough sleepers (see below) 8,200
Staying in supported accommodation services 21,235
Staying temporarily with other households 17,725
Living in boarding houses 17,503
Living in severely overcrowded dwellings 51,088
In other temporary lodgings 678
Total 116,427

Rough Sleepers

In Australia people who are counted as homeless include those who have no accommodation or shelter at all and may be sleeping in streets, parks, in squats (derelict properties) or in cars (often referred to as ‘rough sleepers’). The people in this situation form a relatively small proportion of the total number of people who are counted as homeless in Australia. In the most recent census by the ABS, this group of people experiencing homelessness totalled 8,200 (or 7% of the total number of people counted as homeless). The Mercy Foundation believes this is a completely solvable problem.

Causes of Homelessness

Poverty and unaffordable housing are the primary causes of homelessness. Australia has a shortage of affordable housing, especially in capital cities.

Permanent, affordable housing solves homelessness for the majority of individuals and families experiencing homelessness. However, there is a smaller number of homeless people who have additional support needs due to illness or disability. As well as needing affordable housing, they may also need ongoing health care and other community support to help end their homelessness.

Ending Homelessness in Australia

For most people, affordable, appropriate housing solves homelessness. Although offering food and short term shelter to homeless people are well meant and often needed types of assistance, on their own they won’t end homelessness in our nation. Ensuring an adequate supply of affordable and public housing, appropriate community support services and job opportunities are the long term answers to ending homelessness.