Am I homeless? 

I am homeless. Since I moved from my unit in Beachmere, where I was having housing challenges (rent increasing and unfriendly neighbours, among other things) I have been living in my 1983 Toyota Coaster, which I have also travelled in.  I have also done some house sitting – taking care of others’ homes and pets while they were travelling.

My Coaster, Murtle, has been housed at various locations, from caravan parks, to free camping to the backyard of a family member.  I do not have a stable address. There are many challenges living this way. I have not been living it rough in shop fronts, parks etc., and I understand that in many ways I am fortunate.

However, the situation of homelessness and/or housing challenges is a big issue in Australia. It is a very complex issue.  In many cases people are in homes that they no longer feel to be suitable for their needs.  An example of this could be that the woman is alone (always been single, divorced, widowed) and in a house that is too big and/or no longer manageable.  Also many women are finding that they are alone in the neighbourhood – not knowing anyone of their age/interests in the local area.  They feel isolated and lonely.

It may be that as a single woman, no longer employed and in the private rental market which is no longer affordable. Also in the rental market, security is an issue – one never knows when the landlord wants to change the arrangements of the tenancy.

ABS Definition

­­The Australian Bureau of Statistics’ definition of homel­­essness is

“When a person does not have suitable accommodation alternatives they are considered homeless if their current living arrangement:

  • is in a dwelling that is inadequate; or
  • has no tenure, or if their initial tenure is short and not extendable; or
  • does not allow them to have control of, and access to space for social relations.

The ABS definition of homelessness is informed by an understanding of homelessness as ‘home’lessness, not rooflessness. It emphasises the core elements of ‘home’ in Anglo American and European interpretations of the meaning of home as identified in research evidence (Mallett, 2004). These elements may include: a sense of security, stability, privacy, safety, and the ability to control living space. Homelessness is therefore a lack of one or more of the elements that represent ‘home’.

My Coaster

The definition has been constructed from a conceptual framework centred around the following elements:

  • Adequacy of the dwelling;
  • Security of tenure in the dwelling; and
  • Control of, and access to space for social relations.

See Information Paper: A Statistical Definition of Homelessness (cat. no. 4922.0) for more information on the ABS’ definition of homelessness.  You can read the material in full here.

I did appear on the SBS program Insight in August and will appear on Channel 10 program The Project on December 14th.

Do make contact with me if you would like more information about SOSEW and our project for cohousing for senior solo women.



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