Technical Forum on the Estimation of Homelessness in Australia

The Forum provided an opportunity for experts to discuss technical questions around estimating the homeless, with a view to reaching a common understanding of ways to progress future estimation work to facilitate improved policy and planning.

Background to the Technical Forum

In October 2000 the national Coordination Development Committee (CAD) for the Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP) sponsored a Technical Forum on the Estimation of Homelessness.

SAAP is a national support program assisting people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness through a range of support and supported accommodation services. CAD is the Commonwealth/State/Territory officers' group responsible for national coordination and management of SAAP. The committee consists of a representative from each participating State/Territory government and two from the Commonwealth, one who is Chair.

Why hold a Forum?

During the course of SAAP III, two research projects were undertaken in an attempt to estimate the extent of homelessness in Australia: Estimating the Number of Homeless People in Australia, 1998 (a joint CAD/Commonwealth Advisory Committee on Homelessness (CACH)/Victorian government project) and Counting the Homeless, Implications for Policy Development,1999 (a CACH sponsored project). Both projects were based on the premise that debate on the best policy responses to assist people who are homeless would be improved by reliable information on the number of people who are homeless.

These reports, and other work relevant to understanding the Australian homeless population, formed the basis of the Technical Forum. The Forum provided an opportunity for experts to discuss technical questions around estimating the homeless, with a view to reaching a common understanding of ways to progress future estimation work to facilitate improved policy and planning.

Strategic Partners were contracted to run the Forum and prepared the final report for the CAD. The report provides outcomes from the Forum and is based on the critical analysis of the current estimation methodologies and finding a resolution of the definitional issue – 'what is homelessness?'. The report recommends a national definition of homelessness based on the work of Chamberlain and McKenzie. At its March 2001 meeting CAD endorsed the report and agreed to adopt the definition but to use language that better reflects the different levels of homelessness, by including the following terminology:

  • Sleeping rough (ie those without shelter: primary homelessness.
  • Stop gap accommodation (ie those in crisis but temporarily sheltered: secondary homelessness.
  • Marginal accommodation (ie insecure accommodation: tertiary homelessness.

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