In a life threatening emergency dial Triple Zero (000)

In a life threatening emergency dial Triple Zero (000)
ACT Public Hospitals

Canberra Hospital

5124 0000

Calvary Hospital

6201 6111

Mental Health

Call Mental Health Triage on

1800 629 354

(free call except from mobiles or public phones) or

6205 1065

Poisons Hotline

For a poison emergency in Australia call


Drug and Alcohol Help Line

The Drug and Alcohol Help Line is available 24-hours, 7 days a week on

5124 9977

Health Protection Service

For after hours urgent public health matters including environmental health, radiation safety, food poisoning and communicable disease management phone:

(02) 6205 1700


24 hour health advice

1800 022 222

ACT State Emergency Service

Emergency help
during flood or storms

132 500

Rough Sleeping - Myth Busting

Rough Sleeping - Myth Busting [PDF 108KB]




All homeless people are rough sleepers

What is rough sleeping?

  • Rough sleeping refers to people who live on the streets and who sleep in places that are not designed to be slept in (for example building doorways, bus-shelters, parks, under-passes, cars and carparks etc). Rough sleepers do not have a place to live, or a place to call home.
  • Most people who are homeless in the ACT are supported in crisis/transitional accommodation by the Specialist Homelessness Sector.
  • Only 3% of the ACT’s homelessness population sleep rough.

It’s the homeless person’s fault they are sleeping rough

What causes rough sleeping? Do rough sleepers actually want help?

  • There are many reasons why a person may end up living on the streets. Financial stress, including job loss and gambling, housing affordability and relationship/family breakdown are the top three reasons for homelessness in the ACT.
  • Illness, such as untreated mental health or other chronic health issues, problematic alcohol, drug or substance abuse, are additional factors that may result in some people sleeping rough.
  • The ACT is a small jurisdiction and the homelessness sector works closely to respond to issues facing people who are sleeping rough.
  • Sector workers are highly trained and capable of responding to the issues face by people sleeping rough.
  • Sometimes, people choose not to engage directly with services. Support workers will then offer alternative methods of support, eg. if a person will not accept food assistance from the service, it can be provided through someone else they trust, such as a mental health worker.

Rough sleepers sleep on the street because they have nowhere else to stay

Why would people sleep on the streets if they have somewhere else to go?

  • Some of the people you see sleeping rough may have their own accommodation. However, personal issues such as isolation, mental health or drug/alcohol use may prevent them from using their property as they normally would.
  • When this happens, homelessness services, mental health services, and ACT Government Directorates work together to offer wrap-around support to help the person to sustain their accommodation.

There are hundreds of rough sleepers each night in the ACT

How many rough sleepers are there in the ACT? Does the Government not know who they are?

  • At the 2016 Census, there were 54 rough sleepers in the ACT.
  • In the ACT, the Census figures are used as the primary counting tool, but as this is data at a particular point in time, data is also regularly collected by the Government from the ACT Specialist Homelessness Sector.
  • But, there will always be differences between these two sources of data:
    • The ACT Specialist Homelessness Sector only counts people who are willing to engage with homelessness services and make their personal details available.
    • While the Census counts people who are engaged with homelessness services and those who are not.
  • For many reasons (including privacy, anonymity, mental illness etc) rough sleepers may choose not to engage with support services.
  • There are services, such as Street to Home and Night Patrol, who have contact with nearly all people sleeping rough and where they routinely sleep. These services will continue to offer support on multiple occasions if a person chooses not to accept support on the first meeting.
  • There is also a group of services in the ACT that works together to respond to issues that affect people sleeping rough. This forum is known as Who’s New on the Streets.

The government doesn’t care. There is little to no support for rough sleepers in the ACT.

What supports are provided to rough sleepers?

  • The ACT Government invests one million dollars annually on 5 services specifically designed to support people sleeping rough.
  • ACT support services are designed to address the immediate and critical needs, including crisis accommodation and support for people sleeping rough. Programs for rough sleepers include:
  • OneLink, the access point for ACT homelessness services is located at Nature Conservation House in Belconnen. OneLink attends the Early Morning Centre and Griffin Centre to speak with and connect people to support services.
  • The Street to Home Program and Night Patrol, run by St Vincent de Paul, which actively seeks out and supports people.
  • A number of free food services, such as provided by the Blue Door Drop-in Centre at Ainslie Village, the RoadHouse which iscoordinated by the Australian Red Cross at the Griffin Centre in Civic and the Soup Kitchen in Garema Place.
  • The Early Morning Centre, run by Uniting Care, supports people sleeping rough with breakfast, lockers, computers, showers, medical and vet services and information.

There is nothing I can do. It’s not my responsibility.

What should I do if I see someone sleeping rough? Should I give them money?

  • It is your personal decision if you wish to give money. And you can help in other ways. In fact, helping vulnerable members of the community is everyone’s business – it is not something Government can fix alone.
  • Firstly, treat people sleeping rough with dignity and respect.
  • You can provide support by buying a copy of the Big Issue from a vendor, donating directly to services and by supporting activities such as the Vinnies CEO Sleep Out.
  • If you are concerned about someone you see sleeping rough please contact:
  • Street to Home on 6234 7308
  • OneLink on 1800 176 468.