National push to produce a more accurate snapshot of homelessness in census 2021

Campbell WilliamsonAlbany Advertiser
Pivot Support Services' Ian Neil.
Camera IconPivot Support Services' Ian Neil. Credit: Laurie Benson/Albany Advertiser

An unprecedented national push to produce a more accurate snapshot of homelessness in Australia will culminate this week as the country unites for the 2021 census.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has recruited local engagement officers and community field officers to help with this year’s census as part of its homelessness inclusion strategy.

They have been engaging with support services for weeks in a bid to drive up the representation of homeless people in the national survey.

Census night is tonight, but trained community field officers will spend the rest the week visiting areas where people are known to sleep rough to help them be counted.

There are different types of homelessness, including people who are sleeping rough, couch-surfing, staying in crisis accommodation, or living in severely crowded homes. Rough sleepers make up about one out of every 14 homeless people but have largely been excluded from the Australia-wide survey in previous years.

Ian Neil, the chief executive of Albany’s Pivot Support Services, said he would welcome a more accurate depiction of homelessness.

“I can tell you anecdotally there are 50-80 people sleeping rough any one night in Albany so the need is there, it’s just the data hasn't been collected,” he said.

“The problem in the past with not getting the status of homeless people into the census is that a lot of government services are structured around the data in the census, and if the home-less voice isn’t there, they get missed.”

Pivot provides support for people considered at risk, including those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

“I’m glad they’re taking the steps to do it and it hopefully will give rough sleepers an opportunity to be heard,” Mr Neil said.

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