Violence, heart disease, frostbite - study finds more demand for homeless help

Research by the Centre for Social Impact UWA (CSI UWA) has found 85% of women experiencing homelessness have been attacked in the past two years in a study that also highlighted a big rise in people looking for help from homelessness services.

Research outlined in the report, Ending Homelessness in Western Australia 2022 , has provided a snapshot of life for people experiencing homelessness in WA using information from the Census along with data from support services.

Professor Paul Flatau, Director of CSI UWA, said the report showed the number of people experiencing homelessness who were currently accessing services in WA had increased by almost 40 per cent over the past five years.

“We have seen a significant increase in people accessing Specialist Homelessness Services in WA with almost 900 more every month seeking help this year compared to 2017,” Professor Flatau said.

“We found women sleeping rough, on the whole, were younger than their male counterparts and experienced more violence on the street and more significant mental and physical health problems.

“While half of all homeless men had reported being attacked since 2020, that figure was more than 85 per cent for homeless women.”

Among the lifetime health problems reported by men and women were very high rates of depression, PTSD, asthma, heart disease, hypothermia and frostbite.

Professor Flatau said Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were significantly over-represented among the population of homeless people including those living in severely overcrowded conditions.

“Aboriginal people make up just over three per cent of the population but were almost 30 per cent of the homeless population,” he said.

Professor Flatau said the study found demand for homeless services was greater in WA’s outback north.

“While only six per cent of Western Australians live in remote or very remote areas of the State they represent 36 per cent of clients for specialist homelessness service clients,” he said.