Homeless Figures a Wake-up Call for Action
13 November 2012 at 9:13 am
The Not for Profit sector has expressed alarm at the latest national homelessness figures describing them as a wake up call for urgent action.
The Australian Council of Social Service has called for a concerted national effort to address the worsening problem.
According to estimates of the prevalence of homelessness released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) the rate of homelessness in Australia was 49 persons for every 10,000 persons in the 2011 Census, up 8% from 45 persons in 2006.
“Clearly we are not doing enough to deal with homelessness. The latest figures are a wake-up call that one of the principal ways to deal with homelessness is to take measures to tackle the nation’s affordable housing crisis, which is causing so much strain and forcing people into poverty,” ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said.
“It’s also a sign of the extent of strain being experienced by community support services, especially those supporting women escaping violence; young people, including those leaving care; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples; and people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. About three quarters of the increase in the overall homelessness estimate to 2011 was accounted for by people who were born overseas.
“These problems were all borne out in our own research only a few months ago, which revealed the enormous pressures housing and homelessness services are under, 81% of whom reported being simply unable to meet demand.
“The reduction in the number of rough sleepers is welcome, however most of the increase in homelessness between 2006 and 2011 resulted from the rise in the number of people living in severely crowded dwellings. This is a clear sign of the extent of the affordable housing crisis.
“We’ve seen evidence that investment in areas such as the social housing initiative made a positive impact on homelessness services, but there are still far too many people being turned away – a total of 20,496 over the year or 56 people each day (Australian Community Sector Survey)."
Increase in homelessness shows need for renewal of key Commonwealth – State funding agreements
New ABS data showing increases in homelessness across Australia comes at a time of uncertainty for the funding of homelessness and affordable housing programs.
The ABS 2012 homelessness estimates demonstrate the need to strengthen our efforts to end homelessness according to the Council to Homeless Persons (CHP).
“Given what we know about housing affordability in Australia, and the impact of the Global Financial Crisis, this increase in homelessness is not what we’d hoped for, but is also not surprising. These figures show we need to renew our efforts to solving this problem, through more affordable housing and evidenced based homelessness services,” the CHP CEO, Jenny Smith said.
According to advocacy group, Australians for Affordable Housing, the key Commonwealth – State funding agreements, the National Partnership Agreement on Housing (NPAH) and the National Affordable Housing Agreement (NAHA), are set to expire at the end of this financial year and funding for the National Rental Affordability Scheme is coming towards an end.
“The lack of commitment to extending the funding under these agreements risks exacerbating homelessness and housing stress,” Joel Pringle, Campaign Manager for Australians for Affordable Housing said.
“The buck passing has to stop. It’s time for the States and the Commonwealth to put their heads together and make sure that there is continued funding available to address housing affordability and homelessness.”.
“In addition, a new National Affordable Housing Agreement needs to ensure growth in the number of affordable rental properties in return for continued funding, through an Affordable Housing Growth Fund.”
The Brotherhood of St Laurence also called for an immediate recommitment by the Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments to the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness.
“The ABS finds that on census night in August 2011 while the level of rough sleeping declined and many more people were accommodated by homeless services, there was a sharp increase in the number of people living in severely overcrowded household compared to the situation revealed in the last census five years earlier,” Executive Director Tony Nicholson said.
“The concerted effort over recent years to improve services that prevent and alleviate homelessness is reflected in the 6% decrease in rough sleeping and 22% increase in those living in accommodation provided by homeless services. It’s important that this effort is continued.
“Uncertainty about the future of the National Partnership Agreement puts the current positive momentum at risk. A failure to renew would see services closes and momentum lost.”