These are the people who are sleeping rough in Australia tonight

Saeed Khan/AFP/Getty Images
  • Rough sleepers account for 1 in 14 homeless people in Australia or about 8,200 people.
  • The latest study finds they are more likely to be male, aged 35 or over, unemployed, living alone and have mental health and/or drug or alcohol issues.
  • The report Sleeping rough: A profile of Specialist Homelessness Services clients, identified three vulnerabilities.

Sleeping rough is defined as living on the streets, in parks, squatting, staying in cars or living in improvised dwellings.

But who are they and why are they sleeping outside?

A study by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, using four years of Specialist Homelessness Services data, has for the first time provided insights into this group of people.

Rough sleepers account for only 1 in 14 homeless people in Australia, according to the latest Census estimates.

The rest have other accommodation, such as at shelters or refuges, or are couch surfing or in emergency accommodation.

Rough sleepers are more likely to be male, aged 35 or over, unemployed, living alone and have mental health and/or drug or alcohol issues

They are:

  • 66% male, compared with 36% of other adult Specialist Homelessness Services clients
  • 54% aged 35 or over, compared with 45%
  • 94% unemployed or not in the labour force, compared with 87%
  • 68% living alone, compared with 34%
  • 47% had a mental health issue compared to 34%
  • 34% reported a drug and/or alcohol issue compared to 17%

The report Sleeping rough: A profile of Specialist Homelessness Services clients, identified three vulnerabilities.

These are: mental health issues, problematic drug and/or alcohol use, domestic or family violence.

The report shows that many rough sleepers experience multiple periods of homelessness, highlighting the journey that many people face getting out of homelessness.

At the end of the four-year study, agencies had assisted more than one-quarter of rough sleepers (27%) into housing.

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