No Place to Call Home: How to End Tent Cities

Homelessness is increasing. In Australia, approximately 116,427 people are estimated to be homeless, representing a rise of approximately 14% in five years. While homelessness in some Australian states and territories has decreased, it rose by 27% in New South Wales. Approximately 8,200 of these individuals, or 7%, are ‘rough sleepers’, residing in improvised dwellings or tents, or sleeping out – this compares with 6,810 individuals in 2011. Tent cities – otherwise known as homeless or tent encampments – are also on the rise, both nationally and internationally. In Australia, New Zealand, North America, the United Kingdom, and Canada, many people who are homeless co-reside in sanctioned or unsanctioned areas, often in makeshift shelters. For tent residents, tent cities can be a source of belongingness. However, tent cities are no place to call home. The dark-sides of tent cities are visible at the personal, social, environmental, and economic levels. There is thus an urgent need to identify and promote practices that serve to respectfully offer tent residents long-term, safe accommodation options. This project addresses this need. Specifically, it will learn from the success of the Judges Car Park Penrith and Hawkesbury River projects.

Located in two different locations in New South Wales, the Judges Car Park Penrith and Hawkesbury River projects represent a collaboration among different organisations that collectively represent the government and not-for-profit sectors. Given that business-as-usual – like standalone assertive outreach – does little to address tent cities, representatives of the organisations were inspired by international efforts to collectively: support the tent residents into housing; and return the sites to the community. This project will learn from their success to identify lessons to inform practices, further afield.


Associate Professor Ann Dadich

Dr Elizabeth Conroy

Funding: Project Wentworth Community Housing (opens in a new window)

Period: 2020