Zero homelessness in our sights

The goal of functional zero homelessness in Adelaide is inspiring a new research project being led by Flinders University.

Functional zero homelessness, an approach currently being implemented in 75 American communities, is reached when the number of people who are homeless in a city on any given night is no greater than housing placement availability for that night.

The Adelaide Zero Project, commissioned by the Don Dunstan Foundation, involves Flinders University’s Associate Professor Ian Goodwin-Smith, Director of the Australian Centre for Community Services Research, in conjunction with Adelaide University. The aim of the project is to develop a coordinated approach to better match service systems with the need for housing and housing supply.

On any given night, up to 120 people sleep rough in the city, and this research project will focus on understanding how the functional zero approach can be applied in Adelaide.

A makeshift camp in Adelaide's west parklands in 2011. Photo: Michael Coghlan CC/Flickr
A makeshift camp in Adelaide’s west parklands in 2011. Photo: Michael Coghlan CC/Flickr.

Findings from the Flinders University-led research project will ultimately help to increase long-term solutions to homelessness.

“The Adelaide Zero Project is ambitious, but homelessness demands an ambitious response,” says Associate Professor Goodwin-Smith at Flinders University.

“Our work as researchers, practitioners and leaders connected to this project links us to an international community committed to ending street homelessness, and Adelaide is well positioned within that community.

“We have the preconditions for success. We have excellent services, excellent researchers, resources and a manageable scale. We have a history of leadership on social progressiveness and social innovation, and we will be national leaders when it comes to ending street homelessness.

“We’re coming at this issue from a rigorous research and deliberative base, and we’ve put in the hard yards to set ourselves up for success.”

Shopping trolleys containing clothing and personal items in Adelaide's CBD in 2016. Photo: Michael Coghlan CC/Flickr.
Shopping trolleys containing clothing and personal items in Adelaide’s CBD in 2016. Photo: Michael Coghlan CC/Flickr.

A discussion paper was released by the Don Dunstan Foundation on 17 August to kick-start the development of better systems for Adelaide to achieve its functional zero homelessness target. It can be found online at

The Don Dunstan Foundation was established in 1999 to bring together research, policy makers and community groups, to best meet social needs in South Australia. The foundation is working with Community Solutions and a range of other organisations on the Adelaide Zero Project.  Bendigo Bank is the principal corporate partner.

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