Homelessness Peak Prepares to Close its Doors
15 December 2015 at 11:26 am
The national peak body for homelessness services, Homelessness Australia, is preparing to close its headquarters after the Federal Government stopped its funding for 2016.
The advocacy Not for Profit lost its funding in last year’s Mid Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) but said it would continue some of its work via its Board as staff at its Canberra headquarters, including its CEO, would be without jobs when they start to wind down at the end of January.
The Federal Government is announcing its latest MYEFO statement on Tuesday morning, with economists predicting a $1 billion deficit.
The CEO of Homelessness Australia, Glenda Stevens, said when the defunding was announced last year that “by not reinstating funding to the peak bodies the government has shown they just don’t care about those on the margins of society, whom they have designated as ‘unproductive’ persons experiencing long term homelessness, older women in housing crisis, and veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder”.
Stevens said that if funding was not restored to Homelessness Australia and National Shelter the most vulnerable Australians would lose their voice.
“Homelessness Australia’s provision of frontline services with efficient and effective capacity building programs is lost, the conduit between government and the homelessness and housing sectors is lost, community education and engagement on ending homelessness is lost and strategic and timely research and policy advice is gone,” Stevens said.
“Our members are able to make their contributions to our work, but Homelessness Australia’s work is contingent on government support to be the conduit between them and frontline homelessness and domestic violence services. Our work has a significant national impact and requires a national commitment of financial support.”
The Council to Homeless Persons (CHP), which makes up one of the three councils under Homelessness Australia’s umbrella, said the defunding was a shock for the national peak body and the executive would continue to lobby the government for funds via its ongoing board.
Chief Executive Officer of CHP, Jenny Smith, told Pro Bono Australia News that their funding had ended in July and the Board had continued to work with its reserves.
“What we are trying to do is to manage as best we can without running the office, and [ensure] that the three councils, the Council for Homeless Persons, the National Youth Coalition for Housing and the Women's Services Network, which are under Homelessness Australia have got committee structures under that,” Smith said.
“We are going to try to continue to operate around Australia as a voice for those experiencing homelessness, but without running an office. If you haven’t got funding, you haven’t got funding, and so the little bits of reserve that we have got left will be used to support that work in various ways and [we will make it] last as long as we can.
“In the future we would like to see the Federal Government fund a homelessness and housing piece and we will continue to argue for that.
“We don’t want people in Australia who are experiencing homelessness losing their national voice.”
Smith said the Council would to cooperate with government as best they can in this difficult environment.
“I think we can see that a range of peaks were defunded and that’s extremely disappointing because it’s one thing to say that the private sector should fund peaks and they have the capacity to do that but the community sector has to take funds that have been provided or use funds that have been raised from the public,” she said.
Homelessness Australia said it received just over half of its annual budget of about $700,000 to $800,000 including membership fees.
“It was a small investment to maintain our discourse… what we are doing is in no way a reflection of the office. This is a sad duty to have to wind it down in the face of the loss of the funding,” it said.
The Executive Officer of National Shelter, Adrian Pisarski, said it was a tragedy that the removal of government funds had led to the closing down of the voice of homelessness services in Australia.
Read Glenda Steven’s Opinion on whether homelessness service should be declared essential services here.