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4922.0 - Information Paper - A Statistical Definition of Homelessness, 2012  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 04/09/2012  First Issue
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Contents >> The elements >> THE ELEMENTS

THE ELEMENTS

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 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'.

Recognising this, and drawing on the ETHOS and NZ Statistics definitions, the ABS definition has been built from three key conceptual elements. These elements are used to assess whether someone in a particular living condition can be defined as homeless.

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:
  • Adequacy of the dwelling;
  • Security of tenure in the dwelling; and
  • Control of, and access to space for social relations.

The ABS definition does not include those people who are ‘at risk of homelessness’ nor does it include housing situations that put them at risk of homelessness.


Accommodation alternatives

People must lack one or more of the three elements listed above to be defined as homeless. However, the elements are considered in the context of an overarching consideration of accommodation alternatives. 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 alternatives that are safe, adequate and provide for social relations. People's exercise of choice in not accessing accommodation alternatives is contingent on them having each of the financial, physical, psychological and personal means necessary to provide access to these alternatives.

Financial means - a person has income, wealth and savings that would allow them to access suitable accommodation. Those with very limited income, wealth and savings may not have the means to afford to pay for suitable accommodation and therefore would not have the capacity to choose other forms of safe and adequate living circumstances.

Physical means - a person has the physical capabilities to allow them to access suitable accommodation. Some physical impairments may prevent a person from being able to seek out, access and sustain suitable accommodation and therefore may limit their capacity to access safe and adequate living circumstances.

Psychological means - a person has the psychological means to allow them to seek out and access suitable accommodation. Some types of mental illnesses or cognitive injuries may prevent a person from being able to seek out, access and sustain suitable accommodation.

Personal means - a person has the personal means to allow them to access suitable accommodation. For example, a lack of employment, qualification or skills to gain employment or support outside of the household may prevent someone from being able to seek out, access and sustain suitable accommodation.

If any of the above means are absent, a person does not have accommodation alternatives. If they are also lacking in one or more of the three elements of homelessness then they would be considered to be in a homelessness living situation.





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