Groups in Context

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The homeless
to safe and secure housing if the only housing to which the person has access:

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damages, or is likely to damage, the person’s health or threatens the person’s safety marginalises the person through failing to provide access to adequate personal amenities or the economic and social support that a home normally a ords places the person in circumstances that threaten or adversely a ect the adequacy, safety, security and a ordability of that housing.

Figure 1 Homelessness can be short- or long-term

Social definition
Society considers a person as homeless if they do not have access to safe and permanent housing. ey may live on the streets in: refuges cars, caravans, tents or garages squats una ordable private rental accommodation other forms of temporary accommodation (such as with friends).

Homelessness is not just a lack of shelter – it is also the lack of a safe and nurturing home environment; a private place where people feel comfortable and settled and where they feel they belong. A person may become homeless during a single short episode in their life, or homelessness may be a condition into which individuals enter and exit repeatedly over the course of their lives. People may become homeless due to changes in their income, mental or physical health, or in their ability to maintain social networks. The number of Australians experiencing long-term homelessness is unknown. The ‘real’ statistics may be unavailable simply because of the transient nature of a homeless person’s circumstances. Issues relating to the homeless are discussed in detail below. See chapter 5 (Researching community groups, pages 161 162) for an explanation of the headings used in this section.

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Characteristics of the homeless
While homelessness itself appears to be simply de ned, the degree of homelessness can vary. Homelessness is divided into three di erent segments. Primary homelessness: Refers to people without conventional accommodation who are living on the streets, in deserted buildings, improvised dwellings, under bridges, in parks etc. Secondary homelessness: Refers to people moving between various forms of temporary shelter, including dwellings of friends, emergency accommodation, youth refuges, hostels and boarding houses

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Legal and social definitions of homelessness
Legal definition
A person is homeless if, and only if, he or she has inadequate access to safe and secure housing. According to the Australian Bureau Statistics, a person is considered as having inadequate access



Tertiary homelessness: Refers to people living in single rooms in private boarding houses, who do not have their own bathroom, kitchen or security of tenure CAFS Student CD The homeless ISBN 9780170178150

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Think it through
1 To establish a list of characteristics for the homeless, describe the perceived features of a homeless person’s life in each of these areas: a Housing d Family life g Access to services b Finance available e Wellbeing h Education c Health f Self-esteem i Employment 2 If you spoke to homeless people and listened to them tell you about their life circumstances, do you think you would then need to alter the list of characteristics you developed in question 1? Explain why or why not. Include specific examples to support your answers. 3 Examine the scenarios below. To what segment of the homeless population does each of these individuals belong?

Scenario A Dan lived in foster care for three years. Since turning 15 he has been living in boarding houses and occasionally with the families of girlfriends. He is able to stay in emergency accommodation overnight.

Scenario B Friends Mia and Jo ran away from their family homes when Mia found out she was pregnant. They are now living in an abandoned container on the wharf.

Scenario C Mary has lost contact with her only living relative, her brother. She spends most of her pension paying for her room in an inner-city boarding house....
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