Homelessness is defined when a person doesn't have suitable accommodation which meets basic needs. That includes a sense of security, stability, privacy, safety and the ability to control living space.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) considers the cultural definition of homelessness incorporating three tiers of homelessness as:
- Primary homelessness: people without conventional accommodation (living in the streets, in deserted buildings, improvised dwellings, under bridges, in parks, etc.)
- Secondary homelessness: people moving between various forms of temporary shelter including friends, emergency accommodation, youth refuges, hostels and boarding houses
- Tertiary homelessness: people living in single rooms in private boarding houses without their own bathroom, kitchen or security of tenure.
Homelessness is often outside a person’s control; it can affect people of all ages and may occur at any time during the course of their lives. For some people, this may be episodic and for others, it could be exposure to chronic cyclical patterns of homelessness due to a number of different experiences, including unemployment, financial debt and housing market pressures (such as rising rental and house prices), and the lack of public and social housing.
People at risk of homelessness may include:
- People who are unemployed or underemployed
- Single people over 65
- People in households reliant on government pensions (including carer and disability support)
- Single parent families
- Single people without children
- Children and young people
- People from non-English speaking backgrounds
In 2020, the Department of Communities released its 10 year strategy entitled ‘All Paths Lead to a Home’. This Strategy is a whole-of-community plan that aims to find better ways to prevent homelessness and support those who are experiencing it.
Local government authorities can contribute to the vision of the Strategy in the following ways:
- Investigating models focusing specifically on early intervention and prevention
- Making information on local services and supports available and accessible
- Ensuring front-line staff are provided with training to interact with people experiencing homelessness and, where appropriate, refer them to local services
- Working with police to support and refer people experiencing homelessness to local services and supports
- Coordinating volunteer and charity groups through a place-based approach that better meets the needs of people experiencing homelessness
- Utilising land and assets to create places that are inclusive and can support vulnerable people.
To view the Department of Communities Homelessness Strategy, please visit the Department of Communities website.