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Family and DV homeless service link rise

Australians fleeing family and domestic violence are increasingly accessing government-funded homelessness agencies, but not all requests for help are being met, a report reveals.

The Specialist Homelessness Services 2019/20 annual report shows 119,182 of 290,462 clients experiencing or at-risk of homelessness – or just over 40 per cent – had gone through some form of family and domestic violence.

That’s up almost 3000 people from 116,419 over the previous 12-month period, with women making up 90 per cent of adults in this category.

Just over half of clients under 18 were also affected by family and domestic violence, but it was less skewed along gender lines.

“There was very little difference in the number and proportion of males (17,900 or 49 per cent) and females (18,700 or 51 per cent) aged under 15 experiencing family and domestic violence,” said the report, published by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare on Friday.

Apart from a notable dip across 2018/19, the number of specialist homelessness clients reporting a history of family and domestic violence has jumped by almost 13 per cent over the past five years.

That equates to an extra 13,563 people, with SHS agencies often unable to meet demand.

The report identifies 95,300 requests last year for specialist homelessness services going unassisted, 3000 more than in 2018/19.

For every three of those unassisted requests, two came from females.

“Three in five (60 per cent) unassisted requests involved short-term or emergency accommodation and over one in four (26 per cent) unassisted requests involved other housing or accommodation,” the report said.

“Most commonly, agencies were unable to offer requests for accommodation because there was no accommodation available at the time.”

Nonetheless, SHS-affiliated agencies are still helping about 10,000 more Australians than they were five years ago.

Of last year’s 290,000 clients, 60 per cent (174,500) were female and almost one in three (88,300) reported having a mental health issue.

“People with current mental health issues is one of the fastest-growing client groups, increasing by 22 per cent since 2015/16,” AIHW spokeswoman Gabrielle Phillips said in a statement.

“Various factors, including increased identification, community awareness and reduced stigma, may have had an impact on the increase in self-identification and reporting of mental illness among specialist homelessness services clients.”

SHS groups shelled out about $68.7 million to clients over 2019/20, up from $61.1 million, with $32.3 million spent on existing tenancies and $21.9 million for short-term or emergency accommodation.

Specialist homelessness services are funded under the federal government’s National Housing and Homelessness Agreement.

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