Technology for social justice

Changing the way homelessness data is collected

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The Specialist homelessness services collection: first results report was released yesterday by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report describes the clients who seek assistance from specialist homelessness agencies and the services they receive. It also describes how the specialist homelessness information platform (SHIP), which we developed for agencies to record their client information, is being used by over 80 percent of homelessness agencies.

The report highlights significant improvements to the way data is being collected and reports on the positive impacts that the SHIP application has added to the delivery of services for homelessness agencies across Australia.

Each year many Australians experience homelessness or find themselves in circumstances that heighten the risk of becoming homeless.

The report estimated 91 627 clients were assisted by specialist homelessness agencies in the last quarter. Most clients presented to specialist homelessness agencies on their own (66 percent), but more than one-third presented with children or were children. In fact, almost a fifth of all clients (18 percent) were under the age of two and around half of all clients were under 25.

The data also demonstrated that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were disproportionately represented and comprised 19% of all clients.

The most common reason for seeking assistance (26 percent) was domestic and family violence, especially for females (36 percent). For 18 percent of male clients, the dominant reason for seeking assistance was "housing crisis". 

Short-term or emergency accommodation was identified as a need for clients in 32 percent of support periods, medium-term/transitional housing in 23 percent of support periods and long-term housing was identified as a need for clients in 26 percent of support periods. Accommodation was provided in 16 percent of all support periods in the quarter.

The data collected and reported was able to demonstrate modest improvements in the last quarter including:

  • a small decrease in clients who had no dwelling, were living in a motor car or in an improvised dwelling 
  • a three percent increase in the proportion of clients renting in social housing.

The major benefit of AIHW’s new systems, including the Specialist Homelessness Information Platform was the improved data collection process. This included more efficient error checking (data validation), better integration into the operations of participating agencies.

The SHIP platform is a customised version of Infoxchange's client and case management system

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