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Social Justice

Homelessness is an issue challenging governments and communities in every corner of the world. Within the social justice sector there are many who feel strongly that technology can form part of the solution.

In the Summer 2017/18 issue of Adelaide Living, David Pearson – Executive Director of the Don Dunstan Foundation – discusses how smart technology is already being used to combat homelessness, here in the City of Adelaide.  

Smart solutions addressing social issues

Technology is dynamic, and seemingly infinite in its capacity for generating change. For some, it represents progress and opportunity. For others, technology can heighten concerns of a digital divide – separating our society into two groups: those with access to its benefits, and those without. However, there is another side to technology that is increasingly being explored – using it to address important social issues like homelessness.

Homelessness is a global challenge and the issues are complex. With Adelaide becoming a leading smart city, key local figures in the social justice arena are convinced technology will play an important part in reducing the number of people experiencing homelessness here. David Pearson (pictured above), Executive Director of Adelaide’s Don Dunstan Foundation, is among them.

“At the Foundation, we think that to be truly the most liveable city in the world, we need to make sure there is a place to live for those most vulnerable in our community, as well,” said David.

This is an aspiration shared by the City of Adelaide which has prioritised enhanced liveability alongside efforts to create a smarter, greener and more creative city environment.

David categorises the eradication of homelessness and ending poverty as tasks of similar ilk – long battles that will not be won over the course of a decade, or even a generation.

Rather than search for a one-size-fits-all answer, the Foundation’s approach to tackling homelessness in Adelaide’s inner city stems from a concept known as functional zero homelessness; developed to initially address the issue of military veteran homelessness levels in America. Locally, the efforts fall under the banner of the Adelaide Zero Project, of which the City of Adelaide is a partner.

“The functional approach is what cities in the US have really modelled and the idea is that ending homelessness is a great goal, but it’s not going to happen straight away,” said David.

“In Adelaide, we’ve decided we’re going to focus on rough sleepers, people who are on the street. So, this functional zero approach is saying we want to make sure that at any given time, if there are 50, 99 or however many people homeless, we need to be able to know that the system can place that many people into homes.

“The challenge of homelessness is that you need to know who the people are that are homeless. You need to know them by name. Technology can help collect that data and analyse it.”

Technology can also support social connectivity and inclusion.

“Homeless people are just like everyone else,” said David. “They want to be included in society and just because you are homeless doesn’t mean you don’t use technology. Technology can play a role in helping to connect to services, with others through social media and also help citizens to be part of the solution to ending homelessness.”

As Adelaide continues on its smart city journey, social equity will remain on the City of Adelaide’s agenda.

“Council is committed to the continual exploration of smart technology as a way to achieve positive social outcomes across the City of Adelaide,” said Councillor Phillip Martin.

“It’s important we continue to build on progress achieved through earlier initiatives like the launch of the AdelaideFree Wi-Fi network which is accessed by many people experiencing homelessness.”

For more information about the Don Dunstan Foundation, click here.


Adelaide recognised for pioneering efforts in ending street homelessness

As part of a partnership between the Don Dunstan Foundation and the Institute of Global Homelessness, Adelaide has been named the world’s second Vanguard City. Adelaide’s status as a Vanguard City recognises our existing collaborative approach to supporting people experiencing homelessness and the setting of an ambitious but achievable new goal to end street homelessness. Find out more at


Click here to read the complete summer 2017/18 issue of Adelaide Living.

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