Published: October 23, 2020

The latest Australian Homelessness Monitor shows the national homelessness rate is set to surge as short-term coronavirus and housing protections phase down.

The 2020 Australian Homelessness Monitor offers an independent analysis of homelessness in Australia. It investigates the changing scale and nature of the problem, and assesses recent policy and practice developments seen in response. Combining quantitative and qualitative analysis, the report draws on existing published sources, as well as on primary research involving interviews with government and NGO stakeholders, and with people experiencing homelessness.

This is the second in the Launch Housing-commissioned Monitor series, conducted by the University of New South Wales (City Futures Research Centre and the Centre for Social Impact) and The University of Queensland. Its authors include Life Course Centre Associate Investigator, Associate Professor Cameron Parsell of The University of Queensland School of Social Science.

Key findings from the 2020 Australian Homelessness Monitor include:


Pre-pandemic, homelessness in Australia had climbed by 14% to around 290,000 people in the four years to 2018-19.

Homelessness in Australia was temporarily suppressed by COVID-19 measures and had even fallen slightly in April-June 2020. Unprecedented action by the states in the early months of the pandemic saw at least 33,000 rough sleepers and others booked into hotels and temporary accommodation around the country.

Many of those hotel-housed have since returned to street homelessness in Australia.

This is especially the case in inner city Adelaide and Sydney, where rough sleeping is once more on the rise. Only a minority of those housed in emergency accommodation will emerge from the crisis permanently housed, despite welcome action by the Victorian and NSW Governments to temporarily expand housing capacity by leasing private rental properties.

The extreme shortage of social and affordable housing will leave Australians facing a huge challenge to meet demand for housing.

Decades of belt-tightening have seen Australia’s social housing supply effectively halved since the 1990s. This reflects a long-term policy failure by both levels of government and calls for a revived national social housing program as part of a wider Commonwealth-led reform package.


Download the 2020 Australian Homelessness Monitor here.

Read The Conversation an article on the monitor here and this in-depth look at homelessness, featuring Life Course Centre researchers Associate Professor Cameron Parsell and Dr Andrew Clarke, in The Age/The Sydney Morning Herald  here.