Demand for Food and Housing Hits ‘Crisis Point’
11 May 2018 at 11:53 am
Demand for food and housing has hit “crisis point” in Australia, with a mobile website connecting people in need with basic services reaching one million searches in little more than two years.
Ask Izzy is an online tool to tackle homelessness, which was created by Infoxchange – in partnership with Google, REA Group and News Corp Australia – to help the high proportion of homeless people across the country who own a smartphone.
The tool was launched by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in January 2016, and it was revealed on Thursday the website has now received more than one million searches.
However Infoxchange CEO David Spriggs, told Pro Bono News that this was no cause for celebration.
“On one hand we think it’s great that the website is being used and has had over one million searches,” Spriggs said.
“But on the other hand, we think it’s really sad that there’s that many people in our community who need access to and are seeking these very basic services.”
— Infoxchange (@Infoxchange) May 9, 2018
Over the past last year, food has overtaken housing as Ask Izzy’s most in-demand category, with 3.5 times more people searching for food services than at the same time last year.
This 259 per cent rise in food searches means the category now makes up 26 per cent of all searches on the website, while housing makes up 23 per cent of queries.
This comes as a recent Foodbank report revealed more than one in five Australian children have experienced food insecurity over the past year, along with 15 per cent of adults.
Spriggs said he believed food insecurity was a particular problem for families and those escaping family violence.
“Clearly we are seeing a massive increase in demand for services across the board, and food in particular has overtaken housing as our number one category in the last 12 months,” he said.
“If we look at our audiences and what’s driving that for us, the number one audience that we have on Ask Izzy is people escaping family violence and very closely linked to that is families with children.
“So I think that aligns with some of the data that we’re seeing from Foodbank and from other organisations in this space.”
For Spriggs, these figures show that demand for food and housing have hit “crisis point” in Australia.
“I think it has hit crisis point in terms of the number of people searching for services and it’s been reinforced by other data points that have come out recently, like the increase in the number of people who are homeless in the most recent census data,” he said.
“We’re certainly seeing more than double the number of people using Ask Izzy now than were using it six to 12 months ago. So I think that’s certainly an indicator in terms of that massive level of demand out there in the community.”
Advocates in the social sector warned this week that housing and homelessness issues were “forgotten and abandoned” in this year’s federal budget.
Budget analysis from the Everybody’s Home campaign showed that federal funding for homelessness and social housing had been cut by 16 per cent over five years, while housing affordability has plummeted and homelessness has grown by 14 per cent.
Everybody’s Home spokesperson Kate Colvin, said the government appeared to have abandoned last year’s budget commitment to address housing and homelessness for Australians in need.
“The budget shows the treasurer has a tin ear for the everyday concerns of Australians who are increasingly struggling to keep a roof over their head and put food on the table,” Colvin said.
“Already more than half of low income renters pay more than 30 per cent of their income on housing costs, leaving little over for the basics of life, especially for those who have children.
“Clearly the housing system is broken, [and] the answer is not ignoring the problem.”
The housing system is clearly broken – and ignoring the problem won't make it better.
Last year Treasurer Scott Morrison promised to address housing and homelessness for ordinary Australians.
But going by this year's Budget, it seems his promise has completely slipped his mind! pic.twitter.com/9bxgbRHCon
— Everybody's Home (@_EverybodysHome) May 9, 2018
Spriggs said in order to alleviate the crisis, he would like to see increased funding for social services and action taken on some of the more systemic issues.
“I think some of the immediate priorities are around increasing funding for homelessness services, family violence services and some of the emergency relief services across the country,” he said.
“But in the longer term it needs to come back to some of the more systemic issues around affordable housing, social housing, and more preventative services around areas like family violence and mental health and drug and alcohol issues.
“It’s such a complex area. But all of these things need to come together in order to solve some of these concerns.”