This information is provided to enable individuals and congregations to respond effectively and appropriately to the issue of homelessness at both a local and a state level.
The definition of homelessness adopted by the Commonwealth Advisory Committee on Homelessness in 2001 and widely used in the community sector is based upon the work of Mackenzie and Chamberlain.
This definition includes three categories in recognition of the diversity 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, ‘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 such as experienced by many people with disabilities).
Principles of Engagement
The causes of homelessness are complex and not immediately evident. When we seek to serve people we need to recognise that the obvious solution may not be the most helpful. We also need to understand that each of us views “the other” through the lens of our life experience and a range of preconceptions and prejudices about the causes of poverty and disadvantage.
“To do no harm” is the first dictum of medicine and other health-related professions, and it applies with equal force to our efforts to solve social problems. Many social “remedies” are beset with unintended harmful consequences created by reckless intervention under the guise of helping.
This does not mean we fail to respond at all. Rather, in responding, we should be careful to listen to and empower those whom we seek to serve, and to understand that right relationships are core to effective change.