Introduction - Laws that impact on people who are experiencing homelessness

Contributed by Anusha Goonetilleke, former Supervising Solicitor of Street Law, a program of Canberra Community Law, and current to 1 June 2021

Apart from the prohibition of accommodation-status based discrimination (see s7(1) of the Discrimination Act 1991 (ACT), currently there are no specific laws targeted at those experiencing or at risk of homelessness (such as laws against begging) in the ACT.

However, several laws do have a particular impact on people who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness. This can be due to a range of barriers affecting people who fall into that category. These include but are not limited to:

difficulties retaining important documents due to a lack of stable, secure accommodation or being itinerant;
  • socioeconomic disadvantage, which can make dealing with penalties especially challenging;
  • having several legal and non-legal issues to deal with simultaneously, which are often difficult to identify, navigate and address promptly;
  • their higher visibility in public spaces, which may increase their likelihood of engagement with police officers; and
  • other practical challenges resulting from not having a fixed residential address, not having a place to receive mail or not being able to access services which require proof of address in order to access them. This chapter will provide an overview of some of the laws in the ACT which particularly impact people who are experiencing or are at risk of homelessness, including:
  • obtaining proof of identity;
  • on the spot fines;
  • traffic and parking fines;
  • public space offences; and
  • voting with no fixed address.

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