Fifty-six people a day are being turned away from emergency housing services with a new snapshot of the community service sector revealing growing demand and dwindling resources.
Based on a survey of more than 660 organisations across the country, homelessness and mental health services are struggling to deliver the necessary support to people in need.
The ACOSS community sector survey found the actual turn-away rate by homeless or housing services fell last year to 8 per cent from 13 per cent in the 2009-10 financial year.
Council chief executive Cassandra Goldie said the fall, caused by an influx of Federal funding, was positive but it still meant almost 20,500 people could not be helped.
More than 303,000 people called on housing and homeless services through the year.
Almost 60 per cent of mental health service providers reported high need from clients while 45 per cent of those in the emergency relief area reported high demand. Dr Goldie said there was a clear pick-up in the need to supply legal services.
A record 11,693 people who required legal services had to be turned away by providers.
"ACOSS' report is further evidence of this gross underfunding and the devastating impacting it's having - not only on services but also on the people they are there to assist, some of the most disadvantaged groups in our community," Dr Goldie said.
Eighty-one per cent of housing service providers and 53 per cent of mental health providers said they could not keep up with demand.
More than half of domestic violence and sexual assault service providers said their waiting lists had increased over the past year.
Improving housing affordability and increasing the availability of mental health services were rated as the areas of priority for governments in the coming year.
Seventy per cent of organisations that supply youth services said they needed more staff and volunteers to meet demand.