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The Specialist Homelessness Services (SHS) Program is the primary NSW Government response to homelessness. SHS are a vital part of the broader service system that supports people who are experiencing, or are at risk of homelessness.

The SHS Program aims to ensure people who are homeless or at risk are supported to achieve safe and stable housing in the community. SHS are a vital part of the broader social service system, which includes mainstream and specialist services.

The SHS Program funds NGO providers to deliver:

  • general support (e.g. advice, advocacy and living skills)
  • personal and emotional support (e.g. counselling and psychological support)
  • financial and employment support
  • referrals to mainstream and specialist services (e.g. health, drug and alcohol, legal and court support)
  • assistance to obtain or maintain long-term housing
  • crisis and medium-term accommodation, and
  • other basic support (e.g. meals, showers and transport).

The main reasons people seek help are:

  • financial difficulties
  • relationship breakdown leading to one or more household members leaving home without adequate alternative accommodation
  • fleeing domestic and family violence
  • housing affordability stress
  • inadequate or inappropriate dwelling conditions
  • drug and alcohol issues
  • mental health issues, and
  • leaving institutional settings – without proper transition planning into stable accommodation.

The Australian Government continues to be an ongoing partner in the NSW Government’s response to homelessness by providing a significant co-contribution to the SHS Program.

The Intergovernmental Agreement on Federal Financial Relations (IAFFR) provides the framework for ongoing financial support by the Australian Government to the States and Territories.

National Agreements define the objectives, outcomes, outputs and performance indicators, and clarify the roles and responsibilities that guide the Australian Government, States and Territories in the delivery of services across a particular sector. Funding for the housing and homelessness sectors occurs under the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement (NHHA).

The objective of the NHHA is that all Australians have access to affordable, safe and sustainable housing that contributes to social and economic participation. An intended outcome is people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness achieve sustainable housing and social inclusion.

Data Quality

Institutional Environment

The data presented in the Homelessness files is recorded by homelessness services funded by Dept of Communities and Justice (DCJ). These service providers are required to collect client data as part of the National Minimum Data Set for specialist homelessness services. DCJ has additional data requirements that providers must meet as part of their service contracts.


The reference period for data collected for the Homelessness dataset is for the financial year. Historical data is included in the assets. The data collection for clients of specialist homelessness services (SHS) fundamentally changed from 1 July 2011 impacting on the way clients are counted.  Prior to 1 July 2011 the data was collected via the SAAP (Supported Accommodation Assistance Program) data collection and from 1 July 2011 the data was collected via the Specialist Homelessness Services (SHS) collection. Data prior to 2011-12 is not available.


Access to the Federated Analytics Platform (FAP) containing the NSW Homelessness client files is restricted to registered users in DCJ who require the data for internal analysis purposes. If the NSW Homelessness client files are intended to be used by external parties or for data linkage with DCJ or other external data sets, approval is required from the data custodian, Executive Director, Housing, Homelessness and Disability directorate. This can be arranged through contact with Systems and Performance team in Implementation, Performance and Stewardship branch. The Unit maintains a register of who has access to the Homelessness files and how the data shall be used.


For each reporting period, there are two separate files for conducting analysis of homelessness clients:

  • NSW level
  • DCJ District level (16 districts).

This separation allows the correct count of clients to be made at each level. The total district count of clients is always higher than the total NSW count of clients because some clients receive assistance in more than one district. The NSW file should be used for generating total results at the state level only. The district file should be used whenever more detailed district level analysis is required.

Metadata associated with Homelessness data tables is linked to this Data Quality Statement under the Homelessness Aristotle distribution.

Many fields in the data files have been developed using data collected as part of the National Minimum Data Set for specialist homelessness services. Please refer to the AIHW Collection Manual for detailed instructions providers must follow when recording data.


The target population for the SHS program is:

  • Young people (16 – 24 years)
  • Single men (aged 25 years and over)
  • Single Women (aged 25 years and over)
  • Families

Beyond these four main client groups, other SHS program client groups can be identified by their cultural background, their particular circumstances and the reasons they seek support:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
  • Culturally and linguistically diverse communities
  • People experiencing or escaping domestic and family violence
  • People sleeping rough
  • People leaving correctional facilities
  • Young people leaving care
  • Children under the age of 16

The response to the collection of the data sufficiently provides reliable information from the organisations that submitted data during the reporting period.


During the 2014-15 reporting period, changes were made to the CIMS (Client Information Management System) to prompt data providers to report mandatory data items. This led to a substantial improvement to data quality, in particular a decline in the number of non-response or ‘missing’ values for those items.

Accuracy of Indigenous Status Data

The accuracy of data held about Indigenous Status in current collections is poor for several factors. Firstly, the number of individuals indicating that they are Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander may not be an accurate count, but an over- or under-representation depending on several factors. Secondly, the data quality of Indigenous Status is poor due to the variance and inadequacies of the question/s currently being asked to record Indigenous status.

The accuracy in the representation of Aboriginal and /or Torres Strait Islanders is determined by whether a person will or can identify as such on a data collection form. This is influenced by a number of factors, including the requirements of data collected, the reasons for the collection, who will have access to the information, who the collector is, the way it is collected, and the perception of why the information is collected. These factors are compounded by the structural systems of racism, which have led to power imbalances and relationships founded on mistrust.

The Department of Communities and Justice currently enacts program level Aboriginal identification guidelines, the variance in program guidelines impacts upon the capacity and willingness for an Aboriginal person to self-identify.

The current questions included in data collections to capture Indigenous status are also inadequate. Most commonly, this is seen as a Yes or No reply to Indigenous Status and provides very limited information. A person’s Indigenous status is more complex than a Yes or No reply. It is a starting point to seek more information about a person’s identity. It may be appropriate to collect additional information for example on Country, Clan, and Language affiliation.  This Information should only be collected for a defined and appropriate use for example to facilitate cultural connection of children with family and community.

To begin addressing these gaps, the Department of Communities and Justice, is implementing the Family is Culture Report, which will result in the re-design and collection of identifying Indigenous information as per Recommendation 77. This more detailed suite of questions will improve the quality of the data collected and be more likely to attract an accurate representation of people identifying as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander. Multiple projects are also underway across DCJ to address the recommendations made in the Family is Culture Report to increase both the practice and policy positions of DCJ in regard to the identification and de-identification of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children. The recommendations have been made to increase consistency, improve practice and ensure the principles of Indigenous Data Sovereignty guide the design of all future data elements.

NSW Government is committed to enabling the principles of Indigenous Data Governance as per the NSW Data Strategy . Aboriginal-led Governance structures will be formed as a result of the NSW Governments Commitment to the Family is Culture Report (Recommendation 2), and Closing the Gap, Priority Reform Four, Priority Key action Area 2 Closing the Gap, Priority Reforms.


Changes in Homelessness data over time may be influenced by changes in underlying jurisdiction policies, programs or systems. These changes might affect the service footprint, the characteristics of priority clients, or how services work together to respond to client needs.

NSW homelessness services underwent a period of major transition in 2014-15 that affected continuity of reporting for some service providers. These issues did not affect NSW data from 2015-16 onwards. Caution should be used when making comparisons of 2014-15 data with other years’ figures for NSW or with data for other states and territories.

Relations and Links

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Links to this item

Relationship Role Metadata item Actions
Quality Statement Link Describes the quality of data in Homelessness Support Period Table
Quality Statement Link Describes the quality of data in Homelessness District Table
Quality Statement Link Describes the quality of data in Homelessness Client Table
Quality Statement Link Describes the quality of data in Homelessness Data Set