Homelessness in Tasmania

The need to reduce and eliminate homelessness in Tasmania has never been more urgent.

Who Can Become Homeless?

Homelessness can affect any member of the Tasmanian community, including the very young or elderly, families and single people, Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people, people with a disability and people from culturally diverse backgrounds.

What is Homelessness?

Shelter Tas has prepared a fact sheet to reflect the latest Census 2021 data: Fact Sheet – Homelessness in Tasmania.

The most commonly accepted definition of homelessness comprises of three categories.

Primary homelessness is experienced by people without conventional accommodation (e.g. sleeping rough or in improvised dwellings, including tents).

Secondary homelessness is experienced by people who frequently move from one temporary shelter to another (e.g. emergency accommodation, youth refuge/shelter, “couch-surfing”).

Tertiary homelessness is experienced by people staying in accommodation that falls below minimum community standards (e.g. boarding houses and caravan parks).

The Effects of Homelessness

Homelessness can result in great social and economic cost to the individual and to the community. It creates great instability, leaves people vulnerable to chronic unemployment, ill health and limits their capacity to participate in the social and economic life of the community. People experiencing homelessness are often living without basic human rights being met.

Homelessness in Tasmania

The following information is derived from the ABS 2021 Census data, AIHW Specialist Homelessness Services reports (National and Tasmanian), and the Report on Government Services 2021.

Demographics in Tasmania

The data from the 2021 census shows that the total number of people experiencing homelessness was 2,350 (a 45% increase from 2016). The regional breakdown shows greater Hobart and the South East had the highest proportion, 51%; Launceston and the North East had 27% and the West and North West coast areas 22%.

Age Distribution

On census night in 2021, the majority of people experiencing homelessness in Tasmania were aged under 35 years old. Young people aged 12 to 24 comprised one quarter of all Tasmanian people experiencing homelessness (25%) and 14% were under the age of 12.

Sector Distribution

The majority of Tasmania’s 2,350 people experiencing homelessness were living in severely crowded dwellings (30%), staying temporarily with other households (25%) or in supported accommodation (23%) on census night in 2021. The remainder were staying in boarding houses (11%) or rough sleeping; that is, in improvised dwellings, tents or sleeping out (10%).

Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people

The 2021 Census showed there were 30,000 people who identified as an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) in Tasmania, making up 5.4% of the total population of 558,000.   In 2021, 10.5% (247) of all Tasmanians experiencing homelessness identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander.  ATSI Tasmanians were particularly overrepresented in the ‘rough sleeping’, ‘supported accommodation’ and ‘staying temporarily with others’ categories.

Specialist Homelessness Services

Specialist Homelessness Services (SHS) in Tasmania provide housing and accommodation. This includes immediate emergency accommodation (including shelters), supervised accommodation and placement support services for young people and transitional support services for people experiencing homelessness to (re)establish themselves in independent living. These services also provide information and advice, advocacy and financial supports.

In 2021-22, an estimated 7,000 Tasmanians received support from an SHS (up from 6,600 in the previous year). Of these, 56% were homeless on first presentation and 2 in 5 (40%) were assisted into housing.

In 2021-22 the rate of unmet need (when a person at risk of or experiencing homelessness asks for assistance and it cannot be provided) for short-term or emergency accommodation was 49%. One in 81 people in Tasmania received homelessness assistance, higher than the national rate of 1 in 94.

The overall client rate increased in Tasmania in 2021–22 compared with the previous year; client rates increased for some interest groups particularly Indigenous clients, older people and those with a mental health issue.

The service most requested and unavailable is consistently short-term accommodation. 

Factsheet – AIHW: Tasmanian Specialist Homelessness Services 2021-22

What Can be Done to Address Homelessness?

Currently there are many Federal, State and Territory initiatives in place that aim to lessen and prevent homelessness. Change requires improvements in a range of areas: housing, income, employment, health, social security and the prevention of violence and discrimination.

The work of Shelter Tasmania promotes the importance of affordable housing and support for all Tasmanians, including those at risk of or experiencing homelessness.
For more information on strategies to lessen and prevent homelessness, and on homelessness in general, see the Shelter Tas’ Submission to the State Government Budget Process 2023-24 and the Shelter Tas homelessness factsheet. Or contact Shelter Tasmania direct on 6224 5488 or info@sheltertas.org.au.

Useful Websites and Documents:

Australian Bureau of Statistics, Census of Population and Housing: Estimating Homelessness, 2021.

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Homelessness Services

Homelessness Australia

Report on Government Services 2023 – Homelessness