There are three main types of homelessness:
- Primary homelessness is experienced by people without conventional accommodation (e.g. sleeping rough or in improvised dwellings).
- Secondary homelessness is experienced by people who frequently move from one temporary shelter to another (e.g. emergency accommodation, youth refuges, “couchsurfing”).
- Tertiary homelessness is experienced by people staying in accommodation that falls below minimum community standards (e.g. boarding housing and caravan parks). This definition was adopted by the Commonwealth Advisory Committee on Homelessness in 2001 and is widely used in our sector.
The definition is based on the premise that concepts of homelessness and housing are culturally bound, and that in order to define homelessness it is necessary to identify shared community standards about minimum housing.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics the homeless population in Australia was 105,000 in 2006.
Absolute homelessness, such as sleeping out or in an improvised shelter, accounted for 16% of homelessness in Australia. The majority of homeless people were sheltered somewhere: 45% staying temporarily with friends or relatives, 21% staying in boarding houses, and 19% staying in supported accommodation (such as hostels for the homeless, night shelters and refuges).