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We know that most young people have their first experience with homelessness while they are at school. We teamed up with the Caledonia Foundation, Oasis Youth Services and Youth Accommodation Australia to develop resources for teachers to support students at risk of, or experiencing homelessness.

This information will help you:

  • understand the difference between homelessness and houselessness
  • define three types of homelessness.
Boy in grey hoodie sitting against wall

Homelessness can be defined in a number of different ways. A basic explanation is that homelessness occurs when a young person finds themselves in a situation where their current living situation is not safe or stable and where they may be at risk of not having a place to live, or are already without a place to stay.

Homelessness is more than just houselessness

Youth homelessness doesn't mean just sleeping rough on the streets. The Australian Bureau of Statistics identifies three different types of homelessness which comprise the standard cultural definition of homelessness in Australia.

Primary homelessness - includes all people without a 'roof over their head'. This means people who are living on the streets, sleeping in parks, squatting in derelict buildings or using cars or trains as temporary shelter.

Secondary homelessness - includes people who frequently move from one type of shelter to another. This includes people living in homeless services, hostels, people staying with other households who have no home of their own and people staying in boarding houses for 12 weeks or less.

Tertiary homelessness - refers to people who live in boarding houses on a medium to long term basis (more than 13 weeks), who live in accommodation that does not have 'self-contained facilities', e.g. they do not have their own bathroom or kitchen and who don't have the security provided by a lease.

People can be considered homeless if their accommodation does not have the characteristics identified in the minimum community standard for housing.

We know that most young people have their first experience with homelessness while they are still at school. It is at this point that early intervention support is likely to be the most effective as the young person still has contact with the institutions that are able to help.

Once a young person experiencing homelessness leaves school they are more likely to transition to chronic homelessness. For this reason it is important for teachers to understand that homeless young people are often not the stereotypical street person portrayed in the media.

Points to remember

  • Most people who experience homelessness, first experienced it whilst school aged.
  • Homelessness is different to houselessness.
  • Early intervention is most effective whilst a young person is still at school.