Western Australian Alliance to End Homelessness Dashboard

Ending chronic homelessness in WA

Target 1

Western Australia will have ended all forms of chronic homelessness including chronic rough sleeping

For the purposes of the WAAEH Dashboard, chronic homelessness is defined as a history of rough sleeping or other forms of homelessness for more than 12 months continuously. There are limited data available that measure chronicity in homelessness. Our data are from the Advance to Zero national database and were collected using the Vulnerability Index Service Prioritisation Decision Assistance Tool (VI-SPDAT).

We looked at chronic homelessness in WA which we defined as an answer of more than 12 months to the question: For how many months have you lived on the streets or in emergency accommodation?

From 1 January 2016 to 30 June 2022, the proportion of respondents exhibiting chronic homelessness varied from 56% to 69%. The peak in the proportion of respondents exhibiting chronic homelessness during 2020 may have been impacted by the effects of COVID-19 and may reflect an increase in the proportion of those chronically homeless in the overall homeless community (Figure 1.1).

The rates of access to SHS reflect the nature of the service system, including the availability and accessibility of services and the types of supports provided. The SHS data indicates that, relative to national rates, Western Australians accessing SHS do so for much shorter support periods and are accommodated for far fewer nights. In 2019-20, the median length of support received was 22 days in Western Australia and 51 days nationally.

Table 1.1. Median length of support, days in support periods and nights accommodated, 2019/20, and 2020/21, Western Australia and Australia




Western Australia


Western Australia


Median length of support (days)





Median length of accommodation (nights)





Source: Specialist Homelessness Services Collection (AIHW, 2022). Specialist Homelessness Services Annual Report (cat no. HOU 322). https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/homelessness-services/specialist-homelessness-services-annual-report/contents/summary.

Target 2

No individual or family in Western Australia will sleep rough or stay in supported accommodation for longer than five nights before moving into an affordable, safe, decent, permanent home with the support required to sustain it

Target 2 requires further research before full operationalisation. Both the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Specialist Homelessness Services Collection (SHSC) data and the Registry Week surveys administered by the AAEH Advance to Zero campaign can produce proxy measures to estimate how well we are approaching this target. The VI-SPDAT questionnaire administered during Registry Week by the AAEH collects information on individual and family housing situations (including sleeping rough or staying in supported accommodation). This could be combined with the responses to the following question, which asks ‘How long has it been since you lived in permanent, stable housing (with a secure lease/tenancy)?’ to determine the number of individuals or families who are sleeping rough or staying in supported accommodation for longer than five nights. Additionally, SHSC records include data on the number of nights clients spend in supported accommodation. While this does not include rough sleeping, the percentage of SHS clients spending more than five nights in supported accommodation could be a useful measure for this target.

Reducing the rate of homelessness in WA

Target 3

The Western Australian rate of homelessness (including couch surfing and insecure tenure) will have been halved from its 2016 level

Reducing the overall rate of homelessness

In 2016, 36.4 per 10,000 Western Australians were homeless according to the Census. To achieve the target of halving the rate of homelessness by 2028, this rate will need to decrease to 18.2 persons per 10,000 (Figure 3.1).

In 2017/18 and 2018/19 the homeless rate as recorded by the Specialist Homelessness Service Collection decreased slightly to 32.5 and 32.6 respectively, before increasing to 34.8 in 2019/20 and dropped to 32.5 in 2020/21, above the trajectory for the target of 17.2 persons per 10,000 by 2028 (Figure 3.2).

There was a drop in both clients who were homeless and at risk of homelessness accessing SHS in April 2020, coinciding with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and likely attributed to nation-wide lockdown measures which resulted in many services cutting back direct service delivery for a period. By December 2020, the numbers of both client groups increase to approximately pre-pandemic levels and there is a further increase in March 2022. The monthly series also show that among male clients, a higher proportion are homeless compared to female clients, while the opposite trend is seen in clients at risk of homelessness (Figures 3.3 and 3.4).

The rate of living in improvised dwellings, tents, or sleep out in the open, and of those living in supported accommodation increased from 2011 to 2016. The number of people staying temporarily with other households, living in boarding houses, and living in severely crowded dwellings declined from 2011 to 2016. To achieve the goal of halving the Western Australian rate of homelessness from its 2016 level, steps must be put in place to combat all forms of homelessness (Figure 3.5).

In the case of those experiencing homelessness on entry, the majority completed their support period in the same homelessness position that they began their support period in. There are also relatively large positive transitions from homelessness to both social housing (15%) and private rental housing (13%) (Figure 3.6).

In the case of those at risk of homelessness, the very low proportion of clients that move from housing to homelessness and remain in the same permanent housing state is a very positive outcome showing that the vast majority of SHS clients at risk of homelessness at the beginning of the support period remained housed through their support period (Figure 3.7).

Reducing Aboriginal homelessness

Target 5

The Western Australian rate of homelessness (including couch surfing and insecure tenure) will have halved from its 2016 level. The current very large gap between the rate of Aboriginal homelessness and non-Aboriginal homelessness in Western Australia will be eliminated so that the rate of Aboriginal homelessness is no higher than the rate of non-Aboriginal homelessness.

Reducing Aboriginal homelessness

There is a significant over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Western Australian homeless population. While making up only 3.1% of the general population, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders form 29.1% of the homeless population (ABS, 2016). Between 2011 and 2016, there was a substantial decrease in the overall rate of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander homelessness, from 485 persons per 10,000 to 344.6 per 10,000. This rate of decline will need to be sustained for the next 10 years to achieve the goal of eliminating the over-representation of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander homelessness in WA (Figure 5.1).

The rate of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander homelessness living in improvised dwellings, tents or sleeping out increased from 2011 to 2016, from 46.4 per 10,000 to 48.8 per 10,000. Since this is reflective of the most extreme form of homelessness, strong focus will need to be put into improving the ability of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people within this category to exit it (Figure 5.2).

Figures 5.3 and 5.4 show monthly trends in the number of clients who are Indigenous accessing SHSs in Western Australia and the proportion of all SHS clients who are Indigenous. As with the overall figures of clients who are homeless/at risk of homelessness accessing SHSs, a drop in numbers can be seen in April 2020 around the time that COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic but then the number of SHS Indigenous clients rise again above their pre-pandemic levels. The figures reveal a significant upward movement over time in the share of SHS clients who are Indigenous.

Figure 5.5 depicts the proportion of those living in various forms of homelessness in Western Australia aged 15 years and over that identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander, with data retrieved from the Census.

Reducing regional homelessness

The proportion of SHS clients that live in regional Western Australia has significantly increased in 2020/21 (53.2%) compared to 2019/20 (46.6%). The 2028 target for Figure 5.6 is to eliminate this over-representation, such that the rate of regional homelessness is the same as the rate of people living in regional WA (20.6%).

Figure 5.7 uses Census data to demonstrate the difference in homelessness rates between those who live in regional WA and those in Perth. For this measure, the 2028 target has been set at half of the 2016 rate – in this case 37 and 13 people per 10,000 for regional WA and Perth respectively. While there needs to be a significant drop in the rate of regional homelessness, the 23% decrease that occurred between 2011 and 2016 (from 96 to 74 people per 10,000) indicates the trend is progressing in the right direction to achieve this degree of change.

Figure 5.8 shows the differing composition of homelessness in metropolitan vs regional and remote Western Australia. The data shows that homelessness in regional and remote WA is driven more by severe overcrowding than in Metropolitan Perth (48.4% in regional/remote WA vs 39.0% in Metropolitan Perth).

Figure 5.9 visualises the regional spread of homelessness in WA. The region representing the highest number of homeless persons is Western Australia - Outback North (comprising the Pilbara and the Kimberley regions). When we consider that these regions have markedly smaller populations, the situation is even bleaker - with the Outback (North) region having a homelessness rate of 191 persons per 10,000, far greater than the Perth rate of 26 persons per 10,000, or the overall WA regional rate of 74 persons per 10,000.

Addressing the needs of those experiencing homelessness

Target 6

Those experiencing homelessness and those exiting homelessness with physical health, mental health, and alcohol and other drug use dependence needs will have their needs addressed. This will result in a halving of mortality rates among those who have experienced homelessness and a halving in public hospital costs one year on for those exiting homelessness

Figure 6.1 demonstrates that there has been a large decline in the 2020/21 period – which saw only 40.1% of all individuals accessing Specialist Homelessness Services ending their support periods with their immediate needs and goals met. This is below projected targets, indicating a need for greater and sustained focus on understanding and addressing the complex needs of Specialist Homelessness Services clients.