Rise in the rate of older Australian homelessness

The rate of homelessness in Australia has increased 4.6 per cent over the last five years, according to new data from the 2016 Census of Population and Housing.


The latest estimates reveal more than 116,000 people were experiencing homelessness in Australia on Census night, representing 50 homeless persons for every 10,000 people.


Dr Paul Jelfs, General Manager of Population and Social Statistics, said that while there was an overall increase in the estimate of homelessness in Australia, this number is made up of various distinct groups and each tells a different story.


People living in ‘severely’ crowded dwellings, defined as requiring four or more extra bedrooms to accommodate the people who usually live there, was the greatest contributor to the national increase in homelessness.


“In 2016, this group accounted for 51,088 people, up from 41,370 in 2011.


“On Census night, 8,200 people were estimated to be ‘sleeping rough’ in improvised dwellings, tents or sleeping out – an increase from 3.2 persons per 10,000 people in 2011 to 3.5 persons per 10,000 people in 2016,” Dr Jelfs said.


“One quarter of all people experiencing homelessness in 2016 was aged between 20 and 30 years,” Dr Jelfs said.


Older Australians

Older Australians have also emerged as a group experiencing increasing homelessness.


People aged between 65 and 74 years experiencing homelessness increased to 27 persons per 10,000 people, up from 25 persons per 10,000 people in 2011.


The number of homeless persons aged 55 years and above has steadily increased over the past 3 Census, from 12,461 in 2006, to 14,581 in 2011 and 18,625 in 2016 (a 28% increase between 2011 and 2016). The rate of older persons experiencing homelessness has also increased, from 26 persons per 10,000 of the population in 2011 up to 29 in 2016


Older Australians (aged 55 years and over) made up 16% (18,625 persons) of the total homeless population in 2016. Older Australians are the only age cohort where persons living in 'severely' crowded dwellings is not the operational group with the highest population. For older persons, most are in boarding houses (27%), followed by staying temporarily in other households (24%).


Males accounted for 63% of older Australians who were homeless on Census night in 2016, increasing by 26% (or 2,407 persons) to 11,757 in 2016.


The number of homeless older Australian females increased by 31% to 6,866 in 2016, up from 5,234 persons in 2011.



Recent migrants (those who arrived within the five years prior to the 2016 Census) accounted for 15 per cent of the homeless estimate. Almost three quarters of this group were living in ‘severely’ crowded dwellings and the majority came from countries in South-East Asia, North-East Asia and Southern and Central Asia, including India, China and Afghanistan.


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders

The overall number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experiencing homelessness in 2016 was 23,437. More than two out of three were living in ‘severely’ crowded dwellings, with just less than 10 per cent ‘sleeping rough’.


Dr Jelfs also acknowledged the support of service providers in enumerating the homeless.


“I would like to thank the service providers and staff who worked with the ABS to tackle the difficult challenge of enumerating this population group and maximise the quality of this important information,” Dr Jelfs said.


Further 2016 Census homelessness data can be found on the ABS website – http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/2049.0


14 March 2018.