29 August 2020

Emergency Shelter

by David Moss

Homelessness is a problem in Australia.
According to The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) there were 116,427 people classified as homeless on census night in 2016 (ABS 2019). Of these 8,200 were what ordinary people consider to be homeless i.e. rough sleepers. 21,235 were living in supported accommodation for the homeless. The rest were living in what could be termed less than adequate accommodation.

Most Australians consider only 28,435 of the 116,427 ABS homeless to be genuinely homeless. So around 30,000 people require emergency accommodation on any given night. This number is manageable at a reasonable cost to the community. At a rate of $75 per person per night this accomodation would cost $2.25million per night or $810million per annum.

There were 5406 people living in improvised dwellings or sleeping rough in 2016 (2020 AIHW). This number is even more manageable at a reasonable cost to the community. At $75 per person per night it would cost only an additional $405,450 per night, or $148million per annum to eliminate homelessness completely!

The cost to the community for maintaining homeless people without adequate shelter is up to $44 137  per person per annum. The largest costs are for use of health and justice services and welfare benefits (2012 Burns). This adds up to around $220million per annum for the 5406 genuinely homeless people identified by AIHW. Providing all of them with adequate shelter would halve the cost to the community compared to ignoring the problem.

List of References

2019 ABS, “Homelessness and homelessness services“, Australian Bureau of Statistics, < https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/australias-welfare/homelessness-and-homelessness-services >, retrieved 29 August 2020.

2020 AIHW, “Homelessness: People in other marginal housing“, <https://www.housingdata.gov.au>, retrieved on 29 August 2020.

2012 Burns, L, “The cost of homelessness and the net benefit of homelessness programs: a national study”, <https://ndarc.med.unsw.edu.au/project/cost-homelessness-and-net-benefit-homelessness-programs-national-study#report>, National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, University of New South Wales, retrieved 29 August 2020.