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No place to call home



There is no internationally agreed definition of homelessness. 


According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) a person who does not have suitable accommodation alternatives is considered homeless if their current living arrangement is:

  • in a dwelling that is inadequate; or 
  • has no tenure or if their initial tenure is short and not extendable; or​​
  • does not allow them to have control of or access to space for social relations. 

This definition is informed by an understanding of homelessness as ‘home’lessness as opposed to ‘roof’lessness. 

Mackenzie and Chamberlain when gathering information for a Census of Population, decided upon a cultural definition to measure homelessness and define community standards on the minimum housing that people have the right to expect. 

They created three distinct categories:

  • Primary homelessness, referring to people sleeping rough or living in improvised dwellings as opposed to conventional accommodation.
  • Secondary homelessness, referring to  people who frequent emergency accommodation, refuges or who are forced to couch surf. 
  • Tertiary homelessness, referring to people forced to live in accommodation that is considered to be below community standards. 

The United Nations divide homeless people into two groups:

  • Primary homelessness (or rooflessness), referring to people living in the streets without a shelter.

  • Secondary homelessness, people without a usual residence who are forced to move frequently between various types of insecure accommodation.​

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