Close Search

What impact will the bushfire crisis have on homelessness?

15 January 2020 at 4:28 pm
Luke Michael
An expert believes the bushfires will worsen homelessness in Australia

Luke Michael | 15 January 2020 at 4:28 pm


What impact will the bushfire crisis have on homelessness?
15 January 2020 at 4:28 pm

An expert believes the bushfires will worsen homelessness in Australia

Australia’s bushfire crisis is increasing homelessness across the country and anti-poverty groups are warning of the major challenges this poses for low-income people and rough sleepers.         

The fires engulfing the nation have destroyed more than 2,000 homes in New South Wales alone, leaving many people temporarily unhoused.

Community groups say the crisis makes it more important than ever for governments to invest in social housing.

Jenny Smith, CEO of the Council to Homeless Persons, told Pro Bono News it was tragic to see tens of thousands of people losing their homes.

She noted that it was not only going to increase homelessness in Australia, but also posed extra problems for marginalised groups.

“For people with low incomes, there are particular challenges. To just get out of a bushfire region you need to have access to cash for a car, for a full tank of petrol and for the other out of pocket costs such as securing temporary accommodation,” Smith said.

“I think also these times of stress in our community have been shown to increase family violence across the board, and that will cause problems for women and children looking for a safe haven in that additional circumstance.”

The bushfires are also having an effect on the rough sleeping population, as a “hazardous” smoky haze descends over Australia’s major cities.

Smith said some charities were taking action by providing P2 protective masks to people sleeping rough.

“Rough sleepers are not able to easily find a safe way to get out of the smoke,” she said.

“But we’re certainly aware that some charities are distributing P2 masks, which is fantastic as a short-term solution.”

Smith said the long-term solution was for governments to reconsider their approach to housing.

CHP has long called for action on Australia’s social housing shortage, particularly in Victoria where around 44,000 households are on the social housing waitlist.

She said as climate change made weather-related emergencies more common, this was a problem that needed to be addressed urgently.

“A lot of the crisis accommodation that could be available in these types of emergencies is already filled up with people who are unable to afford rentals and waiting for social housing,” Smith said.

“So when you’ve got 80,000 Victorians waiting for social housing, and more than 200,000 people around the country adding to the problem when looking for emergency short-term accommodation, that’s the issue we need to address now and into the future.”

Luke Michael  |  Journalist  |  @luke_michael96

Luke Michael is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

PB Careers
Get your biweekly dose of news, opinion and analysis to keep you up to date with what’s happening and why it matters for you, sent every Tuesday and Thursday morning.

Got a story to share?

Got a news tip or article idea for Pro Bono News? Or perhaps you would like to write an article and join a growing community of sector leaders sharing their thoughts and analysis with Pro Bono News readers? Get in touch at or download our contributor guidelines.


2022 Salary Survey

Get more stories like this


Your email address will not be published.


Orange Sky lights up the stage at FIA Conference

Danielle Kutchel

Monday, 6th June 2022 at 4:33 pm

How do you solve a problem like homelessness?

Danielle Kutchel

Monday, 23rd May 2022 at 4:26 pm

A journey to discovery: Learning how other countries ended homelessness

Wendy Williams

Thursday, 19th May 2022 at 8:48 am

Renovating the great Australian dream

Brugh O'Brien

Tuesday, 10th May 2022 at 4:09 pm

pba inverse logo
Subscribe Twitter Facebook

News for those with purpose.

Delivered free to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning. 

Thank you - you have successfully subscribed.

Get the social sector's most essential news coverage. Delivered free to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning.

You have Successfully Subscribed!