Momentum grows for national homelessness plan in Australia
5 August 2019 at 5:29 pm
The Morrison government needs to show leadership on homelessness by starting work on a national action plan by the end of the year, housing advocates say.
The Everybody’s Home campaign said momentum was growing for a national homelessness plan, with local governments calling on the federal government to work with them on a strategy.
The advocacy group urged people to write to Assistant Homelessness Minister Luke Howarth during Homelessness Week (4-10 August) demanding work begin on a plan by the end of 2019.
Campaign spokesperson Kate Colvin said with homelessness affecting every state and territory, national leadership was required to solve the problem.
She said homelessness has risen by 14 per cent over the past five years and by as much as 48 per cent in some parts of the country.
“We need a national homelessness action plan that addresses all the drivers of homelessness, including falling investment in social housing in Australia and proper support services for people experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness,” Colvin said.
“Any action plan should also be bipartisan, and include input from all state and territory premiers or homelessness ministers, from local government, people with a lived experience of homelessness, and people working in the sector.”
Colvin told Pro Bono News that analysis from Homelessness Australia showed that investment in social housing and homelessness has fallen in real terms by $82 million over five years.
She said while more investment in housing was a must, governments also needed to do more to stop people from becoming homeless in the first place.
“That means better support for tenants, and also help for people who have more complex needs and require support to retain their housing,” she said.
Assistant Minister Howarth attracted controversy recently, after he said in an interview he wanted to put a “positive spin” on homelessness.
While he came under fire from community groups at the time, Colvin said Howarth had indicated a willingness to tackle homelessness in a bipartisan way.
“He’s also said he’s looking forward to speaking to people on the ground about the issue when he’s in Tasmania to launch Homelessness Week [on Monday],” she said.
“It’s a good sign that he’s prepared to take Australia’s growing homelessness problem seriously and show national leadership on the issue.”
Howarth did not comment on if the government would consider a national homelessness plan when contacted by Pro Bono News, but in a statement said tackling the issue required cross-sector support.
“It’s incredibly important [during Homelessness Week] to recognise the need for all levels of government, service providers and the private sector to work collaboratively to address homelessness and housing issues,” Howarth said.
The assistant minister travelled to Tasmania on Monday to meet with officials, service providers and frontline volunteers, amid discussions with the Tasmanian government for the Commonwealth to help address the state’s housing and homelessness crisis.
St Vincent de Paul National Council has also called this week for a long-term national homelessness strategy.
CEO Toby O’Connor said a non-partisan commitment from federal, state and territory governments was needed to help solve the crisis.
“Only once medium and long-term safe, secure and affordable housing for low income Australians is achieved, can the barriers to employment and broader participation for vulnerable Australians be addressed,” O’Connor said.
“This can be done when all the parties come to the table.”