A blueprint on ending homelessness by 2012 has been put forward by Communities Minister Malcolm Chisholm.
All unintentionally homeless people will have the right to a home
Mr Chisholm said more social housing would be built and greater support would be provided.
Campaigning charity Shelter Scotland hailed the "landmark" announcement, but called for more funding to implement the programme.
The minister said the "priority need" test for allocating accommodation would be phased out by 2012.
In 2003 MSPs passed the Homelessness Act - which gave a long-term commitment for all unintentionally homeless people to have the right to a permanent home.
At present, 75% of all homelessness applications in Scotland are determined to be in priority need - families with children have generally fallen into this category.
By 2012, legislation requires that figure to be 100%.
Campaigners said this would end a bias in the law which left single people or childless couples sidelined in temporary accommodation.
About 30,000 people in Scotland are currently classified as priority homeless. By 2012 the new rules would mean that figure would rise to about 40,000.
Scottish councils, which are responsible for housing homeless people, have said they will struggle to provide enough permanent homes unless more funding was made available. Their call has won backing from the SNP.
Mr Chisholm released further details of the executive's plan to end homelessness in Scotland.
He said that "the supply of appropriate and affordable housing is key".
The minister added: "We are already making a significant investment in affordable housing, a major expansion in homes, assisting those who need it most.
"This commitment will be maintained, not least by ensuring that the implications of the 2012 target are reflected in future planning and resourcing of housing supply.
"We recognise the key role which local authorities have in delivering the target, and how challenging this will be in some areas. We will therefore offer all possible support.
Mr Chisholm said his statement "marks the beginning of a process, not the end".
"It will not be easy to deliver but we need to have in place a system that treats people as human beings rather than as a label or category, deserving or otherwise.
"That is the way we can build on the real progress we have made since devolution and help build a truly compassionate Scotland where everyone has the opportunity to reach their full potential," he said.
Key actions to beat homelessness
Supply of appropriate and affordable housing
Housing support and wider forms of support
Legislative change and guidance
Monitoring and support arrangements
Shelter Scotland published a survey to coincide with the minister's announcement which suggested that two thirds of people in Scotland supported executive action on tackling homelessness.
Head of policy Gavin Corbett praised the Scottish Parliament for "blazing a trail internationally with its commitment to homelessness".
He added: "Local authorities are to be congratulated for the progress they have already made in turning that commitment into reality.
"We recognise that the 2012 target is ambitious but Scotland is well on the road to achieving it in many areas.
"Shelter echoes calls for more money to fund this ambitious programme. But we also recognise that the big test of that is not today but in 2007, when the government carries out its next big review of spending priorities.
"The 2007 spending review must commit more money to increase the supply of affordable homes for rent by 50%. But we need to start winning the case for more money now."
The TNS System Three poll asked 939 adults for their views on how important the 2012 target should be when compared to other issues.
It found that 26% of respondents considered it a top priority, with 41% viewing it as a high priority.
A quarter of those interviewed said it was a moderate priority, with 7% viewing it as low.