Homelessness rising in Australia: Study

SYDNEY (AFP) - Homelessness in Australia has surged 17 per cent since 2006 mainly due to a spike in migrant numbers, though fewer people are sleeping rough on the streets, a report found on Wednesday.

The National Affordable Housing Agreement report, prepared by the government's COAG Reform Council, found that overall housing security had declined from 2006 to 2011.

While the number of "rough sleepers" - those living on the streets - had fallen six per cent to 6,813, the overall amount of people considered homeless had ballooned 17 per cent to 105,237.

Council chairman John Brumby said Australia was now unlikely to meet its target of reducing homelessness by seven per cent this year, blaming growing levels of crowding and temporary housing.

"This report defines the many faces of homelessness," Brumby said.

The rise in the homelessness figure was fuelled by severe crowding, which is defined as a home where there are more than two people sleeping per bedroom and at least three extra bedrooms are required to reduce the burden.

Two-thirds of the 41,390 people living in severely crowded homes were born overseas and likely to be recent migrants, the report found.

Australia is facing record inflows of asylum-seekers arriving on people-smuggling boats from Southeast Asia, with numbers expected to top 25,000 in the year to June 30.

To reduce the burden on immigration detention facilities the government has been forced to release thousands of applicants into the community on spartan welfare with a ban on working.

Charity groups have been forced to meet the shortfall, providing shelter, food and medicine for refugees struggling to make ends meet.

Aboriginal Australians living in crowded dwellings in the remote Northern Territory account for 11.2 per cent of the nation's homeless.

Aborigines, Australia's most disadvantaged minority, are 14 times more likely to be homeless than their non-indigenous counterparts, according to the report.

Brumby welcomed the fall in rough sleeping - "what most people think of as homelessness" - as significant.

"They are some of the most disadvantaged Australians, those who sleep without a proper bed or shelter, so any fall in the number is welcomed," he said.

The COAG (Council of Australian Governments) Reform Council monitors progress on key government benchmarks including healthcare, education, disability and indigenous reform.

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