What impact will the bushfire crisis have on homelessness?
Wednesday, 15th 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.”
In today’s #melbournesmoke we encourage people to take shelter where possible – contact your local council for information or head to a public space such as a library or shopping centre.
Some resources for those without adequate accommodation here: https://t.co/0L3ufRDBD9
— CHPVic (@CHPVic) January 13, 2020
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.”