Specialist homelessness services annual report 2020-21

The specialist homelessness services report is an annual report summarising data from the Specialist Homelessness Services Collection (SHSC).

It describes the characteristics of clients of specialist homelessness services, the services requested, outcomes achieved, and unmet requests for services.


Governments across Australia fund a range of services to support people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. These services are delivered by non-government organisations including agencies specialising in delivering services to specific target groups (such as young people or people experiencing domestic and family violence), as well as those that provide more generic services to people facing housing crises.

Specialist homelessness agencies provide a wide range of services to assist those who are experiencing homelessness or who are at risk of homelessness, ranging from general support and assistance to immediate crisis accommodation. Characteristics of all clients assisted by specialist homelessness services (SHS) in 2020–21 are described below, including their need/s for assistance and the services they received.

At a Glance

The number of clients assisted by specialist homelessness agencies increased to almost 278,300 in 2020–21 from 236,400 in 2011–12; an average annual increase of 1.8 per cent since 2011–12. The rate of SHS clients increased from 105.8 clients per 10,000 population in 2011–12 to 108.3 clients in 2020–21.

It is important to note, the Specialist Homelessness Services Collection (SHSC) data provide a measure of service response. Changes in client numbers reflect the agency engagement of people which is not necessarily a change in the underlying level of homelessness in Australia.

One of the largest groups of clients assisted (42 per cent, or 116,200) was people who had experienced family and domestic violence.

In Western Australia

One in 109 people in Western Australia (WA) received homelessness assistance, lower than the national rate (1 in 92). The top three reasons for clients seeking assistance were:

• family and domestic violence (39 per cent, compared with 39 per cent nationally)
• financial difficulties (32 per cent, compared with 39 per cent)
• lack of family and/or community support (25 per cent, compared with 21 per cent).


Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2021) Specialist homelessness services annual report 2020-21., AIHW, Australian Government.

View the report here.