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National Homeless Persons' Week

Posted 3/08/2011 by Matthew Thomas


Image Source: Homelessness Australia
This week is National Homeless Persons’ Week. The theme title this year, MY Address: diversity in homelessness, seeks to draw attention to the many different people who are homeless for many different reasons.

A previous FlagPost briefly considered the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ (ABS) current review of the way in which homeless people are counted in Australia. This review proposed a number of changes to the Counting the Homeless methodology with a view to improving estimates of the number of homeless Australians.

The ABS has already introduced some initiatives that should help to improve the enumeration of the homeless population in the 2011 Census, to be conducted next Tuesday. These include increasing the number of specially trained collectors who will be counting the homeless, and working with homeless service providers across Australia to promote the accurate reporting of people reporting no usual address who may be homeless.

As stressed in the previous post, it is an extremely difficult task to count the number of homeless people in the Census, for many different reasons. One of these is that some homeless people, for various reasons that may include domestic or family violence, do not wish to be found. In the context of National Missing Persons Week, this is a point worth bearing in mind.

The ABS’s review is ongoing, and its planned activities for developing in May 2012 a final methodology for counting the homeless have been outlined in a recently released Position Paper. While the ABS is conducting its review, a research project to be undertaken by the Government and the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research will seek to improve our understanding of why people become homeless. The Longitudinal Study of Australians Vulnerable to Homelessness will follow the lives of around 1500 Australians who are homeless or vulnerable to homelessness and analyse the factors that contribute to homelessness.

It is to be hoped that with the development of an improved means of counting the homeless and a better understanding of the causes of homelessness, in the years to come greater inroads will be made into eliminating altogether the problem of homelessness in Australia. Ideally, there will come a day when there are no longer any homeless Australians to count.


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