A new collection to assist in measuring homelessness in Australia has been launched today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). Data from the Specialist Homelessness Services (SHS) data collection will paint a clearer picture of homelessness by focusing on people’s experiences of homelessness. ‘Previously, homelessness was measured by the number of services provided to people experiencing homelessness or at risk of experiencing homelessness,’ said Mr Geoff Neideck of the AIHW’s Housing and Homelessness Group. ‘This new data collection will provide better information about people who are homeless, the pathways people take in and out of homelessness and the kinds of work homelessness agencies do.’ For example, information will be collected to indicate whether a client has a diagnosed mental illness or is undergoing treatment for mental health issues. For the first time, children will be counted as individual clients and family information will be more accurate. Information about previous episodes of homelessness and people turned away from homelessness agencies will also be recorded. The new collection will provide more information for the Government’s homelessness strategy, which is to halve the rate of homelessness by 2020 and provide supported accommodation to all rough sleepers who seek it. ‘This new collection is jointly funded by Federal, State and Territory governments and will be a significant source of information on homelessness in Australia,’ Mr Neideck said. ‘It will help give governments a better understanding of the resources needed to overcome homelessness now and into the future.’ The first results of the new collection are expected to be published early in 2012. Collecting homelessness information and reporting on it has been undertaken by the AIHW for more than 15 years. The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.