Counting homelessness: Working creatively to generate complex descriptive profiles of the health and demographics of people experiencing homelessness in Adelaide


Analyses of the prevalence of homelessness suggest homelessness is increasing in Australia and other countries. Yet, difficulties exist in obtaining an accurate picture of homelessness due to a dearth of robust data and inconsistent definitions. This study aimed to build a comprehensive descriptive profile of homelessness and associated health needs in Adelaide. Five data sources were analysed and compared to produce descriptive sociodemographic and health statistics. Across data sources, people experiencing homelessness had a high prevalence of poor health outcomes and service utilisation. Consistent with the international literature, high rates of physical and mental health conditions were reported, including depression, anxiety and dental problems. While there was variability in demographic data, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples were consistently over-represented. Analysing data from multiple sources provided a richer understanding of who is experiencing homelessness and their health needs, highlights it is not always necessary to collect new data to overcome dataset limitations and illustrates how data comparison can improve the use of existing data. The paper concludes with reflections on the challenges and potential of the methodology. Overall, the study shows analysing data from multiple sources can provide rich information to service providers and government departments to inform more nuanced and effective services.


homelessness, public health, South Australia, rough sleepers, social epidemiology

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