Working Paper

Can consumer participation help end homelessness in Australia?

Published: 2023

While some solutions to homelessness appear to be reasonably clear (e.g. permanent supportive housing) the current research does not adequately explain all barriers to ending homelessness. One significant gap is the lived experience of people experiencing homelessness, and how this might contribute to better outcomes. This literature review explores how consumer participation might help end homelessness in Australia and argues for the creation of a body of knowledge speaking to the effectiveness of consumer participation in ending homelessness.

While the current research, policy, and practice show appetite for consumer participation in addressing homelessness, there is very little consistency in how it is understood and few examples of its successes in practice. Consumer participation is intended to ensure that people with lived experience are heard but it risks being directed by the ‘people in charge … [who are] going to do whatever they’re going to do anyway’[1]. It is important that the benefits of consumer participation are maximised and its potential harms mitigated. Currently, there is little research into how consumer participation is best understood and implemented. That said, homelessness continues to be a significant and increasing issue in Australia and it is well worth exploring how consumer participation might contribute to its end.

Currently the uses of consumer participation in homelessness services appear to be based more in policy understandings than they are in evidence. Policy and practice would benefit from clearly defining the purposes of participation and considering the mitigation of its harms; for example, by ensuring the participation activities are linked to concrete outcomes that are consumer led. Overall, further research is needed to ensure better outcomes for policy and practice, and for the persons with experiences homelessness who need supports to achieve its end.

[1] Service user respondent, cited in Phillips & Kuyini 2018, p. 1107


Skye Constantine


Constantine, S. (2023). ‘Can consumer participation help end homelessness in Australia?’, Life Course Centre Working Paper Series, 2023-15. Institute for Social Science Research, The University of Queensland.