Women-headed households make up over 70 per cent of the world’s homeless (Mulherin, 1996). Homelessness is not, however, unique to societies with third world economies. It is increasingly a phenomenon experienced by women in societies with advanced capitalist economies. It is estimated that in Victoria between 16 150 and 17 300 women experience homelessness each year (Horn, 1995).
Single homeless women are often described as the hidden homeless, whilst homelessness itself has been described as advanced marginality (Passaro, 1996) in a risk society (Beck, 1992; Winter and Stone, 1999).
This research provides an analysis of the pathways into and out of homelessness of single women aged 25-45 years without children in their care. The personal experiences of eleven women interviewed for this study are considered within a broader systemic framework. A reconceptualisation of the categories of homelessness in urban Australia is proposed, utilising three categories: situational, long-term and chronic homelessness. These categories are used to examine different experiences of homelessness: pathways into and out of homelessness and potential points for early intervention.