AIHW: More Australians seek homelessness services due to mental health issue, domestic violence

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Violence against women
Women take part in a performance titled "Women in Black", a social action created by Spanish artists May Serrano and Maria Seco to protest against gender violence and called by Amnesty International in downtown Malaga, southern Spain, November 19, 2015. Reuters/Jon Nazca

The number of Australians with mental health issue assisted by the Specialist Homelessness Services (SHS) increased to nearly 260,000 in 2014 to 2015, and domestic and family violence consistently leading people to seek homelessness support, according to a new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

Specialist homelessness agencies across Australia have already provided almost 20 million days of support and nearly 6.6 million nights of accommodation to people. The AIHW report shows Australians with a current mental health issue were the fastest growing SHS client group, with an average rate of 12 percent every year since 2011.

The AIHW also found that the clients who had a current mental health issue during the SHS accommodation increased to more than 63,000 in 2014-15 from about 44,800 in 2011–12. These clients required longer periods of support, compared to those without the conditions in the SHS population.

In addition, the report also shows over a third of clients needed support because of domestic and family violence. There have been 92,000 people, including 31,000 children under 18 years old and 56,000 women 18 years and over, in 2014–15 records.

“Domestic violence continues to be a significant issue for the clients of homelessness services and their children,” said AIHW spokesperson Geoff Neideck.

The AIHW has recently released a separate analysis on clients, who were victims of domestic violence, taking homelessness services over the past three years. The analysis shows these clients required more support than others, with an average of 136 days compared with 92 days of support for other clients.

However, victims of domestic violence are more likely to seek short term accommodation.

Meanwhile, Indigenous clients remain over-represented. One in four SHS clients were Indigenous, despite Indigenous Australians only representing just one in 33 of the total population of the country.

“The gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous rates of service use has been widening—in 2014–15, Indigenous clients used specialist homelessness services at a rate of 8.7 times that of non-Indigenous clients, up from 7.8 times in 2011–12,” Neideck said.

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