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Trend in Specialist Homelessness Service (SHS) user cohorts, Aug 2017-Apr 2021

COVID-19Housing & homelessness

A new analysis of SHS service user data is presented iin this graph. This analysis, enabled with the kind assistance of the Australian Institute for Health and Welfare (AIHW), differentiates service users in any given month on the following basis:

  • new service user – person receiving services in a given month for the first time (since the current system was established in 2011)
  • continuing service user – person receiving services in a given month and already receiving services in the previous month
  • returning service user – person receiving services in the current month and in an earlier month (since 2011) but not in the previous month.

To indicate the relative size of these cohorts, in January 2021, around 87,600 people received SHS services, of whom 76% were continuing clients, 14% returning clients and 10% new service users. Classified as such, this new breakdown arguably provides a more meaningful insight into homelessness trends during the pandemic than the standard data presentation. Given the hugely differing size of the three cohorts, trend over time analysis needs to be presented on an indexed basis. As shown in this graph, the ‘continuing service user’ caseload rose slightly during 2020 and into 2021, consistent with the pattern of recent previous years. New homelessness cases, meanwhile dropped sharply during 2020. This flow quickly contracted by 15% on its pre-pandemic level, generally remaining 10-20% below its level in early 2020 right through until May 2021.

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