What is homelessness?
Definitions of ‘homelessness' are the subject of ongoing debate. Some will focus on the standard or the nature of a person's accommodation while others focus on the issue of safety and security.
A Definition of Homelessness
The most commonly accepted definition of homelessness is Mackenzie and Chamberlain's (1992) definition which categories homelessness into three broad areas:
- Primary homelessness is experienced by people without conventional accommodation (e.g. sleeping rough, squatters, using cars etc or in improvised dwellings).
- Secondary homelessness is experienced by people who frequently move from one temporary shelter to another (e.g. emergency accommodation, youth and women refuges, ‘couch-surfing').
- Tertiary homelessness is experienced by people staying in accommodation that falls below minimum community standards (e.g. boarding houses, caravan parks, and forced share arrangements).
This definition was adopted by the Commonwealth Advisory Committee on Homelessness in 2001 and is widely used in the community sector.
We must see ‘Homelessness' as much more than ‘houselessness'
Many of us don't just think of our home as merely a place of shelter, usually a ‘home' is not just a house it represents family, friendships and social connections with others.
A homeless person could even be someone who does have a home, but whose home is unsafe, for example where there's the threat of violence, conflict or family breakdown.
Being homeless is not always just about housing. It's also about missing a stable connection to a network of friends, family and the community.