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2049.0.55.001 - Information Paper - Methodology for Estimating Homelessness from the Census of Population and Housing, 2012  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 05/09/2012  First Issue
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Contents >> Overview of the Definition of Homelessness >> Overview of the Definition of Homelessness


The ABS definition of homelessness is informed by an understanding of homelessness as 'home'lessness, not rooflessness. It emphasises the core elements of 'home' in Anglo American and European interpretations of the meaning of home as identified in research evidence (Mallett, 2004). These elements may include: a sense of security, stability, privacy, safety, and the ability to control living space. Homelessness is therefore a lack of one or more of the elements that represent 'home'.

In brief, the ABS statistical definition is that:

When a person does not have suitable accommodation alternatives they are 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, and access to space for social relations.

The definition has been constructed from a conceptual framework centred around the following elements:
  • Security of tenure in the dwelling; and
  • Adequacy of the dwelling; and
  • Control of, and access to space for social relations.

These elements are explained in more detail in ABS Information Paper: A Statistical Definition of Homelessness ( 4922.0).

People must lack one or more of these elements to be defined as homeless. However, people who lack one or more of these elements are not necessarily classified as homeless. While homelessness is not a choice, some people may chose to live in situations that might parallel the living situations of people who are homeless. For example living in a shed while building a home on their own property, or on holiday travelling and staying with friends. These people have choice because they have the capacity to access other accommodation that are safe, adequate and provide for social relations. Having access to accommodation alternatives is contingent on having the financial, physical, psychological and personal means to access these alternatives (see ABS Information Paper: A Statistical Definition of Homelessness ( 4922.0).

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