Mental Health Issues And Domestic Violence On The Rise For Australians Accessing Homelessness Services

11/12/2015 4:24 PM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
PETER PARKS via Getty Images
A homeless man sits on a street in the Central Business District of Sydney as the Australian government prepares to release its 2015/16 budget on May 12, 2015. Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey insisted he will deliver a 'responsible and fair' budget as the government battles to juggle slumping revenue and a huge deficit while avoiding a voter backlash. AFP PHOTO/Peter PARKS (Photo credit should read PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images)

Both mental health issues and domestic violence are on the rise for Australians accessing homelessness services, a new report has found.

The report, from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, reveals 36 percent of all people seeking assistance from a homelessness service in 2014/15 were escaping domestic or family violence.

That’s 92,000 people, of which 31,000 were children under the age of 18 and 56,000 were adult females.

'Domestic violence continues to be a significant issue for the clients of homelessness services and their children,' AIHW spokesman Geoff Neideck said.


An earlier AIHW report looked at clients of homelessness services affected by domestic violence, considering all such clients over the past three years.

“It showed that those clients experiencing domestic violence require more support than other clients -- on average 136 days of support compared with 92 days for other clients,” Mr Neideck said.

The report also found one quarter of all clients accessing services had a current mental health issue -- more than 63,000 people.

'In 2014–15, over 63,000—or 25% of all clients—had a current mental health issue, up from about 44,800—or 19%—in 2011–12,' said AIHW spokesperson Geoff Neideck.

The rise makes mentally ill people the fastest growing client group among homelessness services.

The report found mentally ill clients were more likely to need drug and alcohol services and long-term housing.

More than 250,000 people were assisted by specialist homelessness agencies across Australia in 2014-15. But tens of thousands more were turned away over the same time period -- with an average of 329 people not able to be given assistance each day.

That’s actually a decrease on figures from 2011/12, where 374 requests for service were unable to be fulfilled each day.

Homeless Australians will face additional challenges moving into the hot summer months, with exposure to extreme weather compounding existing health issues for some homeless people.

"We’ve got a complex homeless population in the city with complex health issues, who are very vulnerable in extreme weather events," Jenny O’Mahony, Manager of Inner City Health Services at Sydney's St Vincent's Hospital, told The Huffington Post Australia this week.

“This leads to poor hydration, risk of delirium, exposure to elements and significant sunburn.”

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