Working Paper

‘Working ‘with’ homeless persons’: Consumer participation and homelessness services in Australia

Published: 2023

Homelessness is a significant and increasing issue in Australia. Policy, advocacy, and research appear to agree that complex problems, like homelessness, need persons with lived experience of the issues to be involved in the development of solutions. This is typically referred to as ‘consumer participation’ within Australian health and human services. Despite consumer participation having a long history within health and human services in Australia, the ways in which it is best practiced within homelessness services is not well researched or understood. This research intended to contribute to a greater understanding of consumer participation as it currently stands, and to identify the emerging opportunities for lived experience to contribute to addressing homelessness in Australia.

This study reviewed the ways in which consumer participation was represented in public documents (e.g. annual reports, web pages) by the member agencies of a homelessness services network in Victoria, Australia, over the ten years since the publication of its Cared for enough to be involved: client participation guide (2011). This study found that the homelessness services show commitments to meaningful consumer participation but that there do not yet appear to be standard practices or approaches. This study identified some of the concepts which might be tension points for including consumer participation within homelessness services and some of the ways in which services are putting the ideas of participation into practice.

This study provides an overview of some of the ways in which consumer participation is put into practice within homelessness services, and some of the concepts which might be difficult or up for debate. This research raises considerations for the development of consumer participation strategies for homelessness policy and practice. There is a need for further research into how lived experience might contribute to the end of homelessness in Australia.

A more recent version of this paper has been published as: Constantine, S. (2023). Consumer participation in homelessness service delivery in Australia: What is it for? Australian Journal of Social Issues.

Partner Organisations

RMIT University, Melbourne


Constantine, S. (2023). ‘’Working ‘with’ homeless persons’: Consumer participation and homelessness services in Australia’, Life Course Centre Working Paper Series, 2023-04. Institute for Social Science Research, The University of Queensland.