Organisations Unite to Save Vital Homelessness Services
6 December 2016 at 4:41 pm
Hundreds of welfare organisations have united to call on the prime minister to avert a “human, economic and policy disaster” by saving key homelessness programs which are being threatened by budget cuts.
Leaders from 209 organisations across the country have signed an open letter to Malcolm Turnbull in a bid to save the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness (NPAH) which faces being de-funded in 2017.
The letter, released by Homelessness Australia and National Shelter on Tuesday, calls for “an urgent intervention” to end the “prolonged uncertainty” around the future of 180 frontline homelessness and family violence programs that could face closure if NPAH funding ends in 2017.
“On behalf of the 209 organisations below, the 40,000 Australians who signed the Vote Home Campaign petitions – and most importantly on behalf of the 105,000 Australians who face homelessness on any given night – we ask you to secure the future of the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness as an urgent priority,” the letter said.
The funding represents one-third of all homelessness funding with $115 million a year federal funding matched by state and territory governments.
National Shelter executive officer Adrian Pisarski told Pro Bono Australia News extending the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness was a vital step in setting Australia back on a policy path towards increasing affordable housing and reducing homelessness.
“Services and housing providers are already at capacity and a loss of funding of this magnitude will result in big increases in the number of people turned away from help,” Pisarski said.
“We’re also seeing more people turn to homelessness services because there simply is not enough public housing.
“It just is ridiculous that after eight years of this program that we seem to have an annual battle to provide funding in an ongoing way.”
Homelessness Australia chairperson Jenny Smith said the cuts would set Australia back a decade in terms of efforts to reduce homelessness and keep women and children safe from harm.
“We would see more women and children unable to leave violent situations, more young people on the streets instead of in school and more people living out their lives without any real hope of having a safe roof over their head again,” Smith said.
The organisations have also warned that a failure to address the future of the National Partnership on Homelessness before Christmas would leave services with no choice but to start preparing for the wind down of programs in the new year.
Pisarski said a reduced service capacity would be felt by the community well in advance of the cessation of funding in June.
“The decision just gets delayed until it becomes so late that those services are already disrupted, they have to start looking at redundancies for staff, start looking for other jobs, so the level of service can become disrupted which affects clients,” he said.
“I think one of the other things that I’d point to is that many of the services funded under the National Partnership Agreement are ones which are new forms of service which have moved away from a kind of crisis approach to a focus on housing people and wrapping supports around them, which is seen to be I think a more modern and appropriate way of providing services to people experiencing homelessness.
“So by potentially risking the funding of those services we’re also potentially closing the door on the reforms that have been very important in that sector.
“Our frustration is that partly we always have to campaign and waste a lot of energy that would be better spent on other things rather than convincing the government to make a decision when they could have made this agreement longer-term two years ago, three years ago, four years ago.
“Ever since they have been there it has been a piecemeal process, year in year out, when they could have actually just bitten the bullet and put the money in the forward estimates and made sure that these services had security.”
Among the 200-plus organisations endorsing the open letter are ACOSS, Anglicare Australia, Australian Red Cross, Catholic Social Services Australia, Community Housing Industry Association, Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia, National Family Violence Prevention Legal Services, Mission Australia, National Youth Coalition for Housing, People with a Disability Australia, The Salvation Army, WESNET and the National Association of Community Legal Centres.
It builds on the previous Vote Home Campaign petitions launched in the run up to the federal election.