Hornsby Shire Council

Attachment to Report No. CC49/11 Page 0







The purpose of the ‘Count’ was to research and map homelessness within the Shire whilst working to establish baseline data to inform a ten year strategic plan. The Homeless Count was a whole of community approach and over 75 volunteers were engaged to assist in the preparation, coordination and actual counting on the night. Council committed, through its Social Plan 2010-14, to support the work of the Hornsby Homeless Task Force and agreed to assist the Task Force by undertaking research. Council’s Community Development Team attended the Task Force Meetings and coordinated the Homeless Count on 6 February 2011.





Homelessness is broadly used as a description of people who are living without suitable accommodation.


The NSW Government Homelessness Action Plan 2009 – 2014 “A Way Home: Reducing Homelessness in NSW”, uses Chamberlain and McKenzie’s definition of homelessness as:-


1.  Primary homelessness:- living without shelter (i.e. when a person lives in the street, sleeps in parks, squats in derelict buildings, or uses cars or railway carriages for temporary shelter).

2.  Secondary homelessness - People who use a variety of temporary shelters (i.e. using emergency accommodation, refuges, people residing temporarily with relatives or with friends and people using boarding houses on an occasional or intermittent basis.

3.  Tertiary homelessness: People who live in accommodation that is insecure, or not suitable to their needs (i.e. no security of a lease or access to basic private facilities this group may include people in boarding houses or caravan parks.


Two levels of homelessness were counted, primary homeless people - by physically counting homeless people seen, and secondary homeless people by engaging with local service providers to count the number of people residing in hospital, at the police stations, in refuges or temporary and supported accommodation.




When people think of homelessness, Hornsby Shire is not an area that immediately comes to mind. However, there are homeless people living within the Shire and the incidence reported by services suggests that the numbers are growing. The Hornsby Homelessness Task Force was formed in 2008 (convened by Mrs Judy Hopwood MP) to establish a network where stakeholders could work collaboratively to address the issues associated with homelessness after concerns were expressed by the community that rough sleepers were increasing in the central parts of Hornsby including Hornsby Mall, Hornsby Park and the Hornsby Railway Station. The Task Force has grown from a small group of interested organisations to include representatives from over 40 different organisations and community members.


The Task Force is made up of service representatives from state and local governments, non-government community based organisations, private businesses, faith based groups, charities, community representatives and former homeless people.





The count was coordinated by Council’s Community Development Team, and supported by members of the Homelessness Task Force, including TAFE, who developed and delivered extensive training to the volunteers and key members of the Task Force that were involved in the count. Eight members of the Task Force volunteered to assist Council and formed a working group. This group was led by the Hornsby Shire Council’s Community Development Team and undertook tasks that included:-


·      Mapping of the ‘hotspots’

·      The development of a volunteer manual and counting tools

·      Recruiting Volunteers

·      Training of volunteers

·      Assessing and managing Occupational Health and Safety requirements

·      Purchase of equipment and resources

·      Media and Marketing



Initial background research was done by meeting and networking with representatives from the City of Sydney, Parramatta and Nepean regions who have previously carried out homeless counts and formed Task Forces and committees. Information on methodology, occupational health and safety, processes and outcomes was collected to inform the Hornsby Task Force of the most appropriate methodology to use within the Shire. Through this early planning it was identified that due to the geography of the Shire, compared with Sydney, or Parramatta, the count was going to be challenging. The Shire is more comparable to the Blue Mountains and the Hawkesbury areas due to the variety of areas that rough sleepers generally occupy such as riverside, caves and bushland. The working group was then formed to assist Council in its task, and partnerships were formed. This group included two ‘Homeless Consultants’ who had previously been ‘homeless’ for many years in the Shire. These consultants were able to give the group a rare insight into the plight of being homeless and offered the group guidance on choosing the methodology for the count. The group and Task Force agreed that the Methodology used by the City of Sydney and Parramatta would not be the best fit for the Shire due to:-


·      Homeless people not being as visible (as in the city)

·      Many live in inaccessible areas such as caves and bushland, and the river

·      Many live in established make shift ‘homes’, have social connections and are reasonably self sufficient, making use of generators etc


To count primary homeless people, the group decided the count would need to be undertaken at times when the homeless people were visible. It was agreed that early evening would be the best time when it is expected that they would be travelling back to their base, or looking for food. The Homeless Consultants advised on appropriate times that included the day and time when local food outlets would be disposing of food etc. or when the individual would be travelling back to their base.


The group mapped ‘hotspots’ within the Shire where homeless people were rough sleeping or ‘hanging out’. The hotspots were mapped using information from a variety of sources including the Homeless Consultants, Police, Park Rangers, welfare groups, faith based groups, and the community. It was agreed that these hotspots would be observed for a period of time. These hotspots included food outlets (the day and time of the count was chosen to correspond with local outlets and their food disposal practices), parks and streets around the Shire’s transport network. At nightfall, a street count was conducted around the hotspot areas and counters walked the streets observing and documenting any homeless people seen.

This approach was very different to the other regions and due to occupational, health and safety reasons, counters were instructed not to enter bushland, caves, or dark areas such as the riverside to count homeless people.





The count was advertised in the local newspapers and volunteers were request to register on Council’s website. Over 75 volunteers registered. These volunteers were then requested to attend a training session provided by Hornsby TAFE Outreach who developed a training package for the Team Leaders and the volunteer counters.


The two hour training sessions included a number of specific factors:

1.  the aim of the count

2.  the purpose of the count

3.  how the count would be done

4.  where the count would be done

5.  what they should and should not do

6.  use of vehicles

7.  occupational, heath and safety matters

8.  teams and how they would work


The volunteers were given a resource bag of which contained:

1.  a pen

2.  rain poncho

3.  fluorescent vest

4.  lanyard

5.  water

6.  Count manual including Map and Counting sheet


(counters were requested to bring their own torches)




The total number of Homeless people counted on the night of 6 February 2011 was 41.


This includes:-



·      13 “rough sleepers” (i.e. the primary homeless people that were ‘counted’ on the night of Sunday 6 February between 8pm and 11pm.


·      28 in accommodation on Sunday 6 February (Secondary Homeless)


The secondary count includes short to medium care accommodation, those who were in hospital or Police custody.





Whilst the night did not count high numbers of rough sleepers, the event did give the homeless plight some positive media coverage. There may also be other factors that impacted on the final figures documented such as weather. The week leading to the count date, Sydney experienced its longest period of consecutive hot days with 6 days in a row being over 35°C. Then on the night of the count at 4pm, the temperature dropped to 15°C. Most locations across the Shire had experienced some rain by 8.30pm.


An evaluation was emailed or picked up by all volunteers and a small proportion (33%) forwarded back to Council. Responses were compiled and are attached.


In summary the responses stated that:-


·      Training was appreciated by all volunteers who saw it as being very productive, informative and worthwhile.

·      Some volunteers (who may be aware of the numbers of homeless in the area) were disappointed that they didn’t count any or very low numbers of “rough sleepers” on the night.

·      Volunteers are available and willing to undertake similar work


Certificates of appreciation were given to all volunteers and each of the Homeless Consultants received a gift voucher to thank them for their assistance with the organisation of the count.






1.  The Homelessness Task Force continues to provide a network for services to share information and investigates strategies to support the coordination of this information to services that provide services to homeless people, particularly food services and accommodation services.


2.  The Homelessness Task Force advocate for the needs of people that are homeless. This advocacy should be based on a needs analysis of the services available within the Shire.


3.  The Homelessness Task Force investigates training opportunities that may assist front line staff such as customer services staff, park rangers, security officers, transit officers and the Police to assist them in dealing with homeless people who may be sleeping in parks, at bus shelters, shop doorways, on trains or stations etc


4.  Task Force to investigate funding options that may support Homeless services




Count Coordination Team


Lisa Cahill, Manager, Community Development , Hornsby Shire Council

Sharon Mizzi, Coordinator, Hornsby Shire Council

Simon Piggott, Learning Disabilities & Outreach TAFE NSW – Northern Sydney Institute

Alison Stewart, Task Force member and volunteer

Frank Ledwidge, Task Force member and volunteer

James Sutherland Pastor, Thornleigh Baptist Church

Laurie Hirst, Homeless Advisor