Census 2021 Homelessness Count

What is the Census and why is it important?

Census night is Tuesday 10th August 2021

Once every 5 years we have the opportunity to identify how many people are experiencing homelessness and/or in impermanent housing in Melbourne.

Homelessness workers have a key role in gathering this information.

People have until 1st October 2021 to complete a Census form, stating where they were staying/living on 10th August.

The attached document is a quick reference for homelessness and other support workers about how you can assist people who are experiencing homelessness to participate in the Census.


  • Let individuals and households experiencing homelessness know that we want to know if people are couch surfing, living in over crowded situations and/or don’t have stability of tenure.

  • Reassure those experiencing homelessness that Census information is not shared with other Government departments and that they don’t have to give their real name.

  • Talk to every client you speak to between 10th August and late September to ask whether they completed a Census form. If they didn’t, you can offer to help them get a form and, if they ask, help them to fill it in.

  • The most important question in the Census form is ‘what is your usual address’. People should write ‘none’ in the suburb section if they don’t have permanent housing. (Q.12 on household form and Q.10 on the personal form)

  • There are a range of promotional materials available (posters and pamphlets - please see above). Displaying these in your waiting room will be appreciated. Please contact us if you’d like to arrange for us to drop them off to you.

  • Please consider distributing information about the Census to colleagues in your own service and through your networks.The more people know about Census night the more accurate the final count will be. 

  • If you are aware of any people sleeping rough in your local area or elsewhere, please let us know. And if it is within your role and safe to do so, please consider handing out Census information directly.

IMPORTANT: Answer NONE to Question ... on the Household form!

The attached flyer helps identify which Census form people should be completing if they are:

  • sleeping rough
  • in transitional housing
  • in a rooming house
  • couch surfing
  • in a hotel/motel

Questions people experiencing homelessness might ask

The attached flyer answers some questions that people who are experiencing homelessness might have about the Census. 


The information contained in the paragraphs below is from the 2016 and 2011 Census.  A technical glitch has meant that we can't delete this content at this time. 

Fact sheet

The attached flyers answers some of the questions that people who are experiencing homelessness may have about the Census. 

What is the Census?

The Census of Population and Housing aims to accurately count the number of people in Australia, their key characteristics, and the dwellings in which they live through a nationwide survey. Census night is Tuesday, 9 August, 2016. Every household in Australia receives a Census Form, or information about how to complete the Census electronically, in which there is a series of questions that relate to housing and population demographics.

Are people experiencing homelessness counted?

Yes! There is a special Strategy for counting people who are experiencing homelessness. Jodi Mohr from the North West Homelessness Network and Alex Jarvis are coordinating the NW Homelessness count. Given the complexity of accurately counting people who are experiencing homelessness the ABS homelessness strategy allows an extra week of collection time, until Tuesday 16 August.

Why is it important to count people experiencing homelessness?

All levels of government use Census information as a key instrument in the policy development, strategic planning and resource allocation. Therefore, it is very important to present an accurate picture as possible of the extent of homelessness to those who make decisions about funding and resourcing.

What about privacy?

All information collected through the Census is strictly private and confidential. No one outside of the ABS (including other Government agencies) will ever see your Census responses. Individuals or households cannot be identified in Census results or data. Census data will never be shared with other agencies, including Centrelink, Police, Department of Human Services, Tax Department, Office of Housing, Real Estate Agents, and those pesky telemarketers!

How do I fill out the household survey?

If your current housing circumstances on the Census night reflect one of the categories within the cultural definition of homelessness, it is really important that you write “NONE” in the “Suburb/Locality” for the question “Where does the person usually live?” (eg. Question 8 on Household Census forms that have room for 6 people to record their details and Question 10 on Personal Census Forms that has room to capture only one person).

How is homelessness defined in the Census Count?

The ABS uses a statistical definition of homelessness:

When a person does not have suitable accommodation or alternatives.......

How the ABS Homelessness Census count is conducted:

  • Special Area Supervisors will coordinate the recruitment of Special Collectors in their region, and will be responsible for developing and coordinating their local strategy. 
  • In the North West region, the Special Area Supervisors are Jodi Mohr and Alex Jarvis, who are working from Wombat Housing and Support Services. 
  • Special Collectors will have a dual role. Firstly, they will focus on informing both staff and clients about the upcoming Census count. Secondly, after Census night—Tuesday 9 August—they will actively assist clients to ensure they have been counted. 
  • The Department of Human Services has provided the ABS with a list of all the refuges, and transitional and crisis properties for each region. These will be used by the ABS to identify them in the post-analysis process as a property where people experiencing secondary homelessness are located. See below for more information about the Refuge strategy.
  • The ABS has also obtained lists of all registered rooming houses from the Office of Housing, whose role it is to maintain a list of registered rooming houses. 
  • The ABS has asked Special Area Supervisors to provide any addresses of unregistered rooming houses so that these properties can also be identified as addresses where people experiencing homelessness are residing.
  • Special Collectors will also assist to ensure anyone experiencing primary homelessness/rough sleeping on Census Night fills in a Short Form.

North and West Metropolitan Counting Those Experiencing Homeless Strategy

Special Collectors have been recruited to undertake the Census 2011 Counting the Homeless strategy across the state.

In the North West metropolitan region we have recruited dedicated Special Collectors at all Access Points. These Special Collectors will all be based at Access Points from Wednesday 3 August until Tuesday 16 August (9am to 5pm) to promote the Census and to assist people to fill out forms correctly if they are experiencing homelessness post Census night.

We have also recruited a number of Special Collectors who will visit community centres, meals programs and places where people are known to be sleeping rough within the catchment on and after Census night in order to capture people who may not be linked in with homelessness assistance funded services.

If you come across someone after Census night (eg. after the 9th of August) who did not fill in a Census form, please direct them to the closest Access Point where a Special Collector can provide them with a form and assist them to fill one in if required. Alternatively, please contact Jodi or Alex on contact numbers below.

If you have any queries in regards to this, please don't hesitate to contact:

NW Special Area Supervisors - Homeless

'Special Area Supervisors - Homeless' across the state of Victoria.

Please also find attached below a list of other 'Special Area Supervisors - Homeless' across the state of Victoria. This includes the catchment boundaries they will be covering as well as their contact details.


What should I say when the Census Collector calls?
Census Collectors will visit dwellings between Friday 29 July and Sunday 7 August.

The Census Collector will have a photo identity card and will carry their materials in a large yellow bag.

The Census Collector is likely to visit in the early evening or weekend, and will:

  • Offer a Household Form or an eCensus envelope,
  • Ask how many people will be here on Census night
  • Ask for your name and a convenient time to return to pick up the completed Census form,

You should:

  • Accept a Household Form from the Census Collector, (you do not have to give your name)
  • Say that the number of people expected to be 'at home' on Census night will be six or less (even if there are more than six staying),
  • Say that you will complete the Census form on the evening of 9 August 2011 and will return it by mail,
  • Request a mail back envelope.


The Mainstream Census Collector will not know that this is a Refuge

Refuges will need the Household Form, which will be delivered by the Census Collector

All Refuges will receive a Refuge Kit – 2011 Census, which will be mailed out to the dwelling by the Regional DHS.

The arrangements regarding Census Forms for refuges will most closely match what would happen in a large shared house situation.

Normally one Household Form is used to record up to six persons and additional persons are recorded on Personal Forms (This is why Collectors ask how many people will be present on Census night, 9 August).

Similarly, the Household Form is used to link all of the Census forms from the refuge (dwelling) together. All forms will need to have the same Census Form number written on them.

When the Census form is received by the ABS Census Data Processing Centre the Census Collector will be notifed that a form has been completed for that Census Form Number.

It is important for anonymity purposes, that Census forms are completed and returned within a couple of days of Census night, 9 August, in order to ensure that the Census Collector is notified and will not return to follow up.

2011 Census - Help In Other Languages

What help is available?

The ABS have developed information in a range of languages to assist people from culturally and linguistically diverse communities to participate in the Census.

This includes:

  • Fact sheets
  • Videos (an English video is provided where a translated video is unavailable)
  • A phone number people can call for help in their first language

A short brochure in multiple languages is available:

Information about the Census in your language (PDF)

Posters in multiple languages are available in three language groups:

Asian language group poster (PDF)
European language group poster (PDF)
Middle Eastern language group poster (PDF)

Additional assistance may be available through your local migrant resource centre of community group.

Need more information or help?

For more information visit the 'Help In Other Languages' section of the ABS Census 2011 website or call the Census Inquiry Service Language Helpline on 1300 340 120.

The Census Inquiry Service is open 8:30am to 8:00pm, seven days a week from the 18th of July to the 5th of September 2011.