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Homelessness Census Data Released

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released the 2021 Census data on Homelessness. Nationally, 122,494 people were estimated to be experiencing homelessness at the time of the 2021 Census, an increase of 6,067 people (5.2%) since 2016.

In NSW, there were 35,011 people experiencing homelessness in NSW, compared with 37,715 in 2016, representing a decrease of 7.2%. Despite a decrease overall, homelessness numbers have increased for the following groups:

  • Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islanders: Increased by 10% to 2,508 (2021) from 2,278 (2016).
  • Children under 12: Increased by 6.8% to 4,232 (2021) from 3,963 (2016)
  • Youth 12-18: Increased by 3.7% to 2,777 (2021)

Regional NSW also saw an increase in Homelessness, namely:

  • Capital Country (e.g. Queanbeyan, Goulburn, Batemans Bay) – 757 (2021) 656 (2016) – 15.4% increase
  • Hunter Valley (excludes Newcastle) – 714 (2021) 539 (2016) – 32.5% increase
  • Mid North Coast – 860 (2021) 683 (2016) – 25.9% increase
  • Murray – 337 (2021) 231 (2016) – 31.4% increase

An overview on the 2016 to 2021 data for NSW is in the Table 1 below.

While the overall rate of homelessness is down in NSW according to this census data, this doesn’t mean the housing and homelessness crisis in NSW has improved. As acknowledged by the ABS, the impact of COVID-19 has impacted the homelessness data. In NSW, a number of COVID response measures were implemented from early 2020 until late 2021 – with $1.035 billion investment in homelessness and social support services during this period. This includes significant increases in Temporary Accommodation funding, the Together Home program, new social and affordable housing investments as well as maintenance funding. This clearly indicates that government investment can and does improve the lives of people experiencing homelessness and we continue to call on all parties to help us end homelessness together. Read our plan here.

As compared to other jurisdictions, NSW had the third highest rate of homelessness (43 per 10,000 people) , followed by Victoria (47 per 10,000 people) and Queensland (44 per 10,000). This excludes the Northern Territory which on this measure has already had a disproportionately high level of homelessness with 564 per 10,000 in 2021.

Homelessness NSW will continue to interrogate this data and provide additional insights. We are also developing a Homelessness Census Dashboard that will provide easily accessible homelessness census data from 2006-2021. This will be available over the coming weeks.

You can read our media release on the latest census data below.

Read our Media Release

Table 1: A comparison of 2021 and 2016 census data by number of homeless persons, by select characteristics. Source ABS 2021 Homelessness Data Table 1.3

2021  2016  % change 
Homeless Operational Groups
People living in improvised dwellings, tents, or sleeping out 963 2,588 -62.8%
People in supported accommodation for the homeless 5,043 5,861 -14.0%
People staying temporarily with other households 4,100 5,350 -23.4%
People living in boarding houses 8,842 6,869 28.7%
People in other temporary lodgings 1,427 222 542.8%
People living in ‘severely’ crowded dwellings 14,640 16,821 -13.0%
Age groups (years) 
Under 12 4,232 3,963 6.8%
12–18 2,777 2,677 3.7%
19–24 4,903 6,365 -23.0%
25–34 8,057 8,715 -7.6%
35–44 4,885 5,041 -3.1%
45–54 4,181 4,537 -7.8%
55–64 3,361 3,626 -7.3%
65–74 1,883 1,939 -2.9%
75 and over 733 846 -13.4%
Selected age groups (years)
12–24 7,676 9,041 -15.1%
55 and over 5,979 6,407 -6.7%
Sex
Male 20,377 22,698 -10.2%
Female 14,641 15,010 -2.5%
Indigenous Status 
Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander 2,508 2,278 10.1%
Non-Indigenous 27,816 31,327 -11.2%
Not stated 4,687 4,102 14.3%
Core activity need for assistance
Has need for assistance with core activities 1,459 1,876 -22.2%
Does not have need for assistance with core activities 26,317 29,814 -11.7%
Not stated 7,241 6,024 20.2%
Total homeless persons 35,011 37,715 -7.2%

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