Homelessness & Govt Responsibility - Deb Tsorbaris
11 September 2006 at 1:09 pm
The Australian Government should shoulder more responsibility for homelessness according to Guest Writer Deb Tsorbaris, CEO of the Council for Homeless Persons.
The arrival of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing has focused attention on the poor living circumstances, housing and accommodation of some people who are homeless in Australia.
To respond appropriately and adequately to the more than 100,000 people who are homeless on any given night in Australia, greater leadership and responsibility is required from the Australian government.
It is no longer helpful or credible for the Australian government to criticise and blame state governments for the plight of people who are homeless, particularly those who have substantially increased their investment in the homelessness service response and have clearly articulated homelessness strategies.
Affordable, secure and safe housing is fundamental to lives of Australian citizens. Yet, the Australian government for over a decade, through the Commonwealth State Housing Agreement (CSHA) has run down funding for public housing in real terms and has provided little input into developing a strategic and national social housing plan for people receiving low incomes.
Whilst the country enjoys good economic times, the number of people who are long-term unemployed continues to grow. There is some evidence, as well as considerable concern, that stricter welfare requirements will have a disproportionate impact on the most vulnerable social security recipients. The potential implications of this are an increase in homelessness through the reduction or suspension of their income.
The joint Commonwealth-State funded Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP) is the major programmatic service response to people who are homeless in Australia. State and territory governments will now contribute half, or more than half, of the funding for this vital program. It is essential that SAAP continues and that the Australian government remains committed to its retention, enhancement and improvement.
No doubt, the UN Rapporteur would have witnessed the appalling living conditions in which some people in Australia live. This should be unacceptable to all governments and citizens.
However, what he may not have seen are the examples of good housing and support services working together to achieve the best possible outcomes for low income and disadvantaged people including people who are homeless.
All Australian governments and the community should make the commitment to both addressing the issues of people living in poor and inappropriate living circumstances and strengthening the provision of current housing, support and accommodation mechanisms.
Established in 1972, the Council to Homeless Persons represents all people who have a stake in homelessness including services and people who have experienced homelessness.