The Faces of Homelessness Wesley Mission
From the Superintendent
The Facts
The Faces of Homelessness
Homeless Youth
The Aged Homeless
Homeless Families
Homeless Women 
The Accommodation Juggle
Homelessness in Sydney
Availability and Affordability of Housing
Increased Demand, No Place to Stay
Recommendations
Wesley Mission Services
Contacts
References
 
Wesley Mission Home

This report was prepared by Wesley Mission's Strategic Planning & Development Unit,
edited by Sharon Hoogland, Manager.
Special thanks to Marilyn Judd Smith and AnneMarie Maizey (research and writing) and to Lyndal Parker (graphic design).

We pay tribute to, and acknowledge the contribution of the many committed and professional staff within Wesley Mission Sydney, who work tirelessly and relentlessly to meet the needs of homeless people with Christian care and compassion.

Names of people in our case studies have been changed to protect their identity.
Case studies and photographs have been used with permission.

Girl in distress

From the Superintendent

Gordon MoyesThe faces of homelessness have changed over the last two decades.

The old, derelict wino on the park bench has been joined by;

younger men, unemployed and hopeless;
by the confused and mentally ill, frightened by the pace of activity surrounding them;
by women with children, desperate to escape violent and destructive domestic situations;
by young people, cast off by families who can't cope or don't care.

The situation is getting worse. Community service organisations and major charities all agree that our resources cannot meet the demand for services. We turn away more people than we have the capacity to help. What a sad indictment on our society!

As winter fast approaches, we release this report to highlight the pathetic situation faced by thousands of individual people. This church still believes that everyone deserves the right to adequate food and shelter, to be loved and nurtured with dignity and to achieve their inherent potential as contributing members of our community.

I urge you to join with Wesley Mission Sydney in finding both immediate and long term solutions to this shameful situation.

Together we can make a difference!

The Facts

  • There are over 1,200 Support Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP) * agencies assisting homeless people across Australia.1
  • Across Australia, SAAP agencies supported 90,000 homeless clients during 1999-2000. 2
  • 57% of homeless women with children and 44% of homeless single women aged over 25 sought SAAP assistance mainly because of domestic violence. 3
  • The main reasons for seeking SAAP funded assistance during 1999-2000 by homeless women were:
    domestic violence (23%), 
    relationship breakdown (12%), 
    financial difficulties (11%) and 
    eviction or previous accommodation ended (10%).4
  • During 1999-2000:
    83% of SAAP clients were born in Australia. 
    18% were Indigenous women and 
    13 % were from non English Speaking background. 5
  • 70,000 Australian children and young people were homeless in 1989, when the Burdekin report 6 was written. The number has now increased to over 100,000!
  • On the night the 1996 Census was taken 7,200 homeless families were identified. 2,395 families were staying in impoverished dwellings! There were 28,000 people of which 16,928 were children! 7
  • Beds available in Sydney for homeless men decreased from 808 in 1991 to 370 in 1997, down 220%. 8
  • In NSW during 1999, people seeking crisis accommodation and support rose 24.8% to 33,462 people. 9
  • Nationally, 20% of homeless single males aged over 25 and 19% homeless males with children most often reported financial difficulty. 10
  • In 1998, 1.2 million or 20% of the NSW population lived in poverty. By the end of 2000 in NSW, there were 96,500 people on the public housing waiting list. Yet only 1,285 public housing dwellings was constructed in that year! 11
  • 28% of the NSW population in 1998 are paying over 30% of their income in rent.12 

* The Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP) is a Commonwealth government program, either fully or partially funding organisations to provide accommodation and support services to homeless people.

  • Over 4,500 persons were assisted with temporary emergency accommodation as part of the rental assistance scheme in 1997-98. 13
  • The Homeless Persons Information Centre, Sydney reports that in:
    1994 it referred 4,173 people to accommodation; 
    1997 the number increased to 9,460; and 
    1998 the number increased to 14,190 - an overall increase of 340% in 4 years.14
  • The 'Down and Out in Sydney' Report in 1998 found that 
    75% of homeless people have at least one mental disorder,
    49% of men and 15% of women have an alcohol use disorder,
    36% have a drug use disorder,
    33% have a mood disorder,
    93% of people reported at least one experience of extreme trauma in their life.15

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Man on the street

The Faces of Homelessness

How to care for homeless people is an urgent and extremely important challenge to the Australian community.

Homelessness and the issues surrounding it have been a reality of our community for many years. However, whilst we may have become 'immune' to a certain extent, to the plight of the alcoholic on the park bench, as a community we are inadequately resourced to meet the current reality, which is the changing face of the homeless.

In 1989, Australia was called to attention with the publication of "Our Homeless Children",16 a report of the National Inquiry into Homeless Children, also known as the Burdekin Report. This report provided staggering proof of a desperate situation: the large number of young Australians, who were homeless, disillusioned and damaged, and who despaired of any future. 17 

In 1997, "Shifting the Deckchairs", a joint report 18 by five major Sydney charities, revealed that increasing numbers of homeless people in Sydney had mental illnesses, despite the steady withdrawal of mental health services to homeless people accommodated in hostels and refuges. 

A further report by the same coalition of charities in 1998, "Down and Out in Sydney", 19 produced evidence of continuing depletion and deterioration of services. The report highlighted "an indictment of government policies which have been directed towards saving money rather than the preservation and nurturing of damaged lives. To ignore the stark realities of mental disorder and trauma affecting homeless people is to perpetuate a grave injustice." 

How far have we come in the past twelve years? 

The reality is, we're not doing very well. In the year July 1996 - June 1997 an estimated 147,000 people used homeless services across Australia, some more than once. A further 304,000 requests for support or accommodation were not met over that period, mainly due to the lack of accommodation places. 20

Statistics from the organisations that work with the homeless show that the problem is getting worse every year- an overall increase of 340% in 4 years

Meanwhile, Shelter NSW 21 in 1999 reported that "In the last five years, over $231m has been cut from the supply of public housing with $99m of those cuts this year alone - a cut of nearly 50% from last year." 

It was in 1999 that the new Commonwealth/State Housing Agreement (CSHA) took effect. It reduced the amount of funding available to the States by approximately $10 million per year over the period from 1999 to 2003.

Defining Homelessness

Homeless people are not one homogeneous group. They include the elderly, the young, families, and single women and men. While some may be relatively stable, staying for extended periods in a refuge or shelter, others lead very transient lives moving between temporary accommodation, shelters and the streets. However they have one thing in common: they live in poverty, with little or no social support.

A popular perception is that the homeless person is unable to secure suitable accommodation because they are in some way lacking, such as lacking living skills. In fact this perception does not describe what is homelessness, as many people lack living skills, for example, but are not necessarily homeless. 22 This perception does little to further the debate surrounding homelessness, blaming the homeless person for their situation; down playing community and government social responsibility; and ignores the impact of life situations on homelessness.

So what is homelessness and how can we define it? It is not easy to precisely define the meaning of homelessness and different organisations and government departments have their own definitions. 

The Council for Homeless Persons Victoria (CHP) defines homelessness as,
"Someone without a conventional home, lacking the economic and social supports that a home normally affords. Often cut off from the support of relatives and friends, few independent resources … no immediate means and, … little prospect of self-support." 23

The Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP) 24 says a person is homeless if, he or she has inadequate access to safe and secure housing, including current accommodation where the accommodation:

  • Threatens their well being; 
  • Fails to provide personal access to amenities;
  • The supports normally provided by a home;
  • Lacks safety, security and affordability of accommodation; and
  • Lacks security of tenure.

Common understandings of homelessness tend to focus on five situations:

  • Currently living on the street;
  • Living in crisis or refuge accommodation;
  • Living in temporary arrangements without security of tenure - for example, moving between the residences of friends or relatives, living in squats, caravans or improvised dwellings, or living in boarding houses;
  • Living in unsafe family circumstances - for example, families in which child abuse or domestic violence is a threat or has occurred; and
  • Living on very low incomes and facing extraordinary expenses or personal crisis.

As can be seen, homelessness is not just a lack of shelter. Homelessness is also lack of a safe and nurturing home environment; a place where people feel comfortable and settled; and a place that is private and where they feel they belong. 

Degrees of Homelessness:

There are varying degrees of homelessness, ranging from people living in insecure, unsafe or unaffordable housing who are at risk of homelessness to people living on the street, in parks, or squats who are in a state of outright homelessness. 

"Homelessness may represent a single acute episode in a person's life, or a condition into which individuals enter and exit repeatedly over the course of their lives." 25

Most people are homeless because they have insufficient income to afford housing appropriate to their needs, but homelessness can also be the effect of fluctuating housing markets, domestic violence and family breakdown, deteriorating social networks, unemployment, mental health and disability. 

How many homeless people are there?

Not all homeless people use specific homeless services, and the homeless population, by its very nature, is transient - so identifying the number of homeless people is difficult. 

Many do not seek welfare assistance - either because of fear, lack of information or ill health.

Most don't fill out census forms or surveys, - either because they don't have an address, may have literacy or language problems, are fearful of bureaucracies.

Subsequently, many do not appear on any kind of list. 

What do we know? We know that,

  • On Census 26 night in 1996, there were:
    20,579 people in improvised dwellings, or sleeping out
    23,299 in boarding houses
    12,926 in SAAP funded accommodation, added to
    48,500 staying with friends and relatives, leading to an estimated
    105,304 people in Australia as 'homeless' on that one night! 
  • In the year July 1996 to June 1997, an estimated 147,000 people (of which 31% were children) used homeless services across Australia, some more than once. 27
  • It is estimated that a further 304,000 requests for support or accommodation were not met over that period, mainly due to the lack of accommodation places. 28
  • There are over 1,200 agencies receiving SAAP funding to assist homeless people across Australia. 29
  • Over 90,000 homeless people used SAAP services in 1999-2000. 30
  • Many people are assisted by other charitable, community and church-related organisations, including Wesley Mission. 
  • Many needing help do not seek assistance from formal agencies at all.

In short, the official figures identifying the numbers of homeless people are conservative indicators of the much larger group of people who are marginalized by the very nature of current data collection methods.

What causes homelessness?

There is no simple answer to this question. Certainly a range of factors do contribute, including:

  • Domestic violence 
  • Relationship breakdown
  • Unemployment 
  • Health problems, including mental illness 
  • Eviction, previous accommodation ended (shifts in the housing market)
  • Previous or current alcohol and other drugs problems 
  • Physical or developmental disability
  • Loss of social support networks

SAAP data shows:

  • 45% of women gave domestic violence, or sexual/physical/emotional abuse as the main reason for becoming homeless,
  • 21% of men gave financial difficulty as the reason, and 
  • 14% of both men and women gave relationship/family breakdown as the main reason for becoming homeless 31 

Homeless people, like everyone in the community, come from a variety of backgrounds, which is reflected in the diversity of their situations. As a community our response or lack of response to destitute people reflects the value which we place on human dignity.

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Girl sitting on a bin
Mum feeding her baby

 

 

 

 

Homeless Youth

70,000 Australian children and young people were homeless in 1989, when the Burdekin report 32 was written. The number has now increased to over 100,000!

Us young ones need homes too.
We are on the outside looking through.
We don't like being in shelters or on the street
Where we are scared of everyone we meet.
We need places that we can afford
Without sky-high rent or board.
We're being pushed from place to place.
Stop and think! We are also a part of the human race.
We don't need much, just help us
And we won't kick up a fuss.
This is becoming like a nightmare.
Come on, you elders! Do your share!

This poem was composed by a homeless young woman on the eve of the Inquiry into Homelessness hearing. 33

Many people think that homeless kids leave home of their own choice. Most children leave because they have no real choice - because of serious abuse, sustained family conflict or complete family breakdown - poverty, social isolation, and a sense of hopelessness that places near-intolerable stresses on families. Children, because of their lack of social standing, are often the victims. Anger and frustration is often taken out on them, leaving some of them abused, mistreated, neglected, ignored, and unloved.

The Declaration of the Rights of the Child declares that all children have a right to enjoy special protection, to receive adequate housing, and to be protected against all forms of neglect, cruelty and exploitation. 

"It is an indictment on modern Australian society that the number of young homeless people continues to rise. Young homeless people are often unsafe in the family home; in conflict with family members; at risk of abuse and assault on the streets and in state care; and unable to earn enough income to access a reasonable level of housing. These problems are often exacerbated due to young people's relatively low income earning capacity, their low level of power within society, unacceptably high rates of youth unemployment, and discrimination in the housing sector." 34

Children can survive reasonably in almost any environment where there is love and the minimal physical requirements. When they become the victims of the anger, frustration, powerlessness and despair of their families, their home virtually leaves them and they may choose to take to the streets.

Homeless children and young people are at a very high risk of serious illness. Malnutrition, lack of hygiene facilities, inadequate sleep, exposure, violent injury, substance abuse and sexual exploitation are a deadly combination.

From the statistics gathered in this report, it is clear that a large number of Australian children and youth are being denied the fundamental human rights of food, clothing, shelter and safety.

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The Aged Homeless

"Those people aged 60+ who are homeless or at risk of homelessness are estimated at 250,000 people over the age of 60 are homeless, or at risk of homelessness across Australia. ……. War veterans account for 10% of this group." 35

The majority of older homeless people have been estranged from their family for many years, or have no living relatives. 

Many who sleep outdoors are isolated and extremely distrustful. 

Many claim no welfare benefits, have no income and scavenge food from litter bins.

There are hidden numbers of homeless aged who are walking the streets or living on park benches; or they may live in insecure housing - single rooms and boarding houses, private rental or homeless hostels, hidden away from the public eye.

Homeless older people have not necessarily been homeless all their lives. Often homelessness is created through a range of circumstances, including 

  • discharge from the armed forces, 
  • transient work histories, 
  • the death of both parents, 
  • the death of a spouse,
  • the breakdown of a marriage or family structure in which they are living, or
  • they may have become entrenched in the homeless lifestyle, and become elderly during their homelessness.

With the death of a spouse the receipt of a sole income such as the single pension may result in these people falling below the poverty line. "Older people have a higher chance of poverty as they do not have the opportunity to pool income and resources."36 

Two thirds of those who receive a pension have it as their sole source of income, which often makes private rental impossible to access.

Another defining feature of homeless older people is that they often do not ask for assistance. Either they have the attitude "I don't deserve help" and see themselves as failures in society or, more commonly, they are so independent they will not ask for assistance.

The following observations 37 regarding elderly homeless people have some saliency: 

  • Elderly people should not have to live in dormitories, using stainless steel doorless bathroom facilities - they should be entitled to accommodation services that treat them with dignity and respect.
  • Elderly people should not have to live in fear of eviction, their pension being stolen by the landlord nor should they have to leave a shelter and wait until the evening before they can return.
  • Elderly people have a right to live in an environment that provides them with "dignity, independence and freedom, and which eliminates the fear of the streets…" 
  • The Government has redirected aged care funding for the construction of accommodation facilities to home care services. Home care services presume that the person has a home in which to receive the service - it excludes homeless people from gaining access to these services.

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Homeless Families

Families with children are the fastest growing group among Australia's homeless.

This indicator confronts the myth that homeless people are mostly old alcoholics or street kids. Many families, women with children fleeing domestic violence and even men with kids and no place to stay are among our homeless.

It is difficult to determine accurate data on homeless children, but families with children constitute about one third of all of Australia's homeless. In the year 1996 to 1997, an estimated 147,000 people (of which approximately 31% were children) used homeless services across Australia. 38 That's 45,570 children! 

At the time of the 1996 Census there were 7,200 homeless families. Consisting of:

  • 28,000 people, - 10,752 parents and 16,928 children.
  • 482 were in boarding houses; 
  • 2,128 were in SAAP services; 
  • 2,172 were staying with friends and relatives; and 
  • 2,395 stayed in improvised dwellings.

The difference between the data provided by the ABS and the Council to Homeless Persons is another indicator of the difficulties faced in identifying and including homeless people that are not in accommodation in official data collection at the time the Census snapshot is taken. This omission and marginalisation of sectors of our community when allocating and distributing the public purse may well result in a misdirection of government funding and the provision of services. What happens to the social safety net for these people? It would appear that the holes are so big that they fall through!

The most significant cause of family homelessness is income related. Despite tenancy legislation, people with low incomes living in private rental housing are particularly vulnerable to rising rents, eviction and the current tight supply of rental housing in some capital cities. During 1998, 28% of the NSW population earned below $34,500 per annum and are also paid more than 30% (housing stress) of their income in rent. 39 This places low paid workers, unemployed and pensioners in vulnerable positions when attempting to obtain low cost housing.

The recent increase in the cost of rental properties, especially in the Sydney area since the Olympics boom, 40 has placed many families and individuals under the poverty line, either in housing stress or are living in impoverished conditions. NSW has the highest proportion of public housing households with overcrowding. 41

Financial strain may lead to physical abuse, substance misuse, and/or mental and physical illness. These pressures, added to the lack of affordable housing and the paucity of crisis accommodation means a roving population of homeless families. There's a big difference between the 17,000 children counted in the 1996 Census and the more than 45,000 children assisted in 1996-7. 

But one thing we know: there are a lot more roving homeless families today than there were five years ago.

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Homeless Women 

In 1999-2000 across Australia, 42:

  • 55% of homeless people seeking assistance were women;
  • The average age of homeless women was 30 years; and
  • The single largest group of women were 15-19 years old.

The main reasons identified by the above group of homeless women for seeking assistance were:

  • domestic violence (23%);
  • relationship breakdown (12%);
  • financial difficulties (11%); and 
  • eviction or previous accommodation ended (10%).

For those homeless women with children,:

  • 57% sought assistance because of domestic violence; and
  • single women over 25 the figure was 44%.

The experience of homelessness for women is inextricably linked to their:
lower level of participation in the labour market, 
usually lower levels of income, 
interrupted working life, 
caring responsibilities (for both children and aged family members), and 
discrimination regarding access to finance. 

The limited availability of crisis accommodation for women without dependent children has been revealed as a statistical reality. Women don't usually seek community service assistance until all of their own personal networks were well and truly exhausted. Consequently, when they finally seek assistance, their situation is desperate and they are dejected and often desperate. 43

Young women leave home for a variety of reasons including to escape homes made intolerable by domestic violence, incest, neglect, sexual, emotional and physical abuse, as well as part of the move to independence and adulthood. Frequently, the perpetrator of violence is known to the young woman or they are a member of her family. 44

Recent ABS studies into the incidence of violence experienced by women indicate that it is young women who experience the highest levels of violence and sexual assault. And yet nationally, there are few young women's specific services that are able to respond to homelessness and domestic violence issues.45

As a result of the risks and barriers women face in securing safe accommodation for themselves and their children many remain in abusive relationships, hiding the reality of their situation.

"Our understandings of women's homelessness must also therefore include an understanding of the ways in which income support and housing assistance policies affect women's lives, alongside the impact of violence and sexual assault. As the feminisation of poverty continues to expand unabated, so must our gendered critiques and policy responses." 46

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The Accommodation Juggle

As a result of the lack of medium to long term accommodation and the shortage and unreliability of crisis accommodation, many homeless people and their families move between various shelters, street life and squatting.

Those who do take advantage of crisis accommodation often adopt a 'refuge-hopping' lifestyle, as only short stays are generally permitted, so they move between refuges. Thousands 'squat' in condemned, abandoned or otherwise vacant buildings. Others 'on the street' simply sleep in doorways, drains, car parks, under bridges, behind factories and in bins. 

The long term effects of this lifestyle increases the likelihood of ill health for homeless persons, reduces their ability to obtain employment, demeans and marginalizes their experiences and increases their vulnerability falling prey to 'seedier' elements of our community, resulting in possible drug abuse, prostitution and other criminal activities.

The provision of adequate affordable housing is crucial if we are to prevent homelessness. Our failure as a community to be prepared to commit to the provision of additional public housing is resulting in increasing numbers of homeless people, families and children.

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Homelessness in Sydney

In every category of homelessness, the number is increasing. And our ability to cater for increasing numbers is diminishing. There seems to be no way out!

In Sydney:

  • The number of people requesting assistance from the Homeless Persons Information Centre has grown by 129.4% between 1996 and 1999. 
  • The number of people requesting housing who "slept rough" the night before rose from 217 in 1996 to 534 in 1998 to 620 in 1999. 
  • There is a substantial and concerning increase in the number of homeless single men calling for assistance: 193 in 1996; 675 in 1998; 1044 in 1999.
  • The increase in demand corresponds to a decrease in accommodation, for example from 808 homeless men's beds in 1991 to 370 in 1997. While the demand for beds increased more than 10 fold from 767 requests in 1992 to 9,797 requests from homeless men in 1999.
  • Over 30% of people seeking assistance were from country NSW or interstate. 47

This actual data supports significant amounts of anecdotal evidence, showing an increased presence of homeless people in the Sydney LGA. 

While more people are turning to SAAP for help, (about 90,000 each year have been assisted for the past few years), the numbers of people needing assistance and being turned away is growing dramatically. 

The social housing sector has changed dramatically in the past few years, with Commonwealth State Housing Agreement is now focused on targeting housing assistance to those "in greatest need". This sounds good, but funds are shrinking by $10m per year over the next four years. And the focus effectively means being committed to assisting fewer people. 

This means that one sector of assistance is shrinking - long-term accommodation, forcing the overflow to seek assistance with short and medium-term agencies, who in turn are finding that their funding is only staying level in an environment of dramatically increasing need. 

A significant responsibility is being shifted to Church based and community based organisations to fill the gap in the provision of services for homeless people.

In the fight against poverty, we as a nation are falling behind.

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Availability and Affordability of Housing

The public housing waiting list at December 2000 was 96,500, while 1,285 new dwellings were completed in 2000 in NSW. 48

100,000 families (250,000 people) are waiting to move into public housing across Australia. Many have been in the queue for five years, and the queue is growing by 12 people each day. 

The Federal and State governments have sliced spending on public housing. The Federal government cut spending by $30 million in 1997-98. In NSW, spending fell from $638.9 million (1991-92) to $425.5 million (1997-98). 49 That's a 33% decrease!

Housing features as a significant factor in both causing and resolving homelessness. Lack of access to appropriate, long term housing solutions in turn make the resolution of homelessness more difficult.

Housing affordability in Sydney in particular and in NSW generally continues to be a significant problem for people on low and moderate incomes. In the past 10 years, the number of lower income households for whom housing is unaffordable has almost doubled. In NSW 25% of low income households (approximately 500,000!) are regularly unable to pay for essentials such as food, clothing, health care and transport.50

The National Housing Strategy benchmark for housing affordability is 25 - 30% of income, and housing stress is defined as housing costs in excess of 30% of income. 51 Between 1986 and 1994 the number of people who pay 30% or more of their income on rent has increased significantly. 28% of the NSW population earn less than $34,500 pa and are paying more than 30% of their income in rent. 52

Since 1994 rent increases have exceeded rises in the cost of living and movements in wages and incomes. Meanwhile, funding for the Crisis Accommodation Program (CAP) has remained constant, and is projected to remain at this level through to 2002-3. This means that, in real terms, this funding is declining. 

Funding for Rent Assistance has increased somewhat, but is still not keeping pace with increases in the cost of rental properties. 

The increasing shortage of affordable housing is exacerbated by further decreases in Commonwealth funding for public housing under the Commonwealth State Housing Agreement:

"In the last five years, over $231m has been cut from the supply of public housing, with $99m of those cuts this year alone - a cut of nearly 50% from last year. While a leasing program will keep public housing growing slightly (by about 0.7%), the overwhelming demand for more public housing has been ignored - again." 53

The lack of affordability in the private market and the failure to sustain sufficient growth in public housing is reflected in the growth of the waiting list for public housing. By the end of 2000 in NSW, there were 96,500 people on the public housing waiting list. Yet only 1,285 public housing dwellings was constructed in that year!54

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Increased Demand, No Place to Stay

Given the statistics, it is not surprising that the numbers of people seeking assistance from homeless persons services has increased. All services report that they are unable to cater for the demand. SAAP figures indicate considerable unmet need. 

In NSW during 1997-1998: 55

  • 23,515 people received support, and 
  • an estimated 36,500 were turned away - an increase of 28% from the previous year. 

More people were turned away than were helped! 

What does this say about our ability to meet the needs of those we seek to support? 

The 'Down and Out in Sydney' Report in 1998 found that 

  • 75% of homeless people have at least one mental disorder,
  • 49% of men and 15% of women have an alcohol use disorder,
  • 36% have a drug use disorder,
  • 33% have a mood disorder,
  • 93% of people reported at lease one experience of extreme trauma in their life. 56

How long can we keep pretending that we are, indeed, a just society?

Wesley Mission Sydney strongly believes that homelessness can be resolved in a manner that provides dignity, independence and security, both physical security and security of tenure for homeless people.

This will require a concerted and committed effort on the part of all the stakeholders: homeless people and families, government (both Commonwealth and State), charitable and community based organisations, corporate Australia and the wider community.

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Lady drunk
Kids and their Dad
Lady on the phone
Street sign

RECOMMENDATIONS

Wesley Mission Sydney recommends:

That Government funding is made immediately available to ensure the provision of additional crisis accommodation in identified areas of need throughout New South Wales and especially within the wider Sydney metropolitan area.

That a range of services be provided (including accommodation, support and outreach) for those homeless people who every night in Sydney sleep on steps, footpaths and in alleys, such as outside Parliament House, the Domain and the State Library.

That accommodation, within the city and regional areas of high need, be provided on a gender specific basis with suitable arrangements for homeless families.

That Commonwealth and State governments work co-operatively with service providers to ensure the provision of affordable, appropriate housing for people on low incomes and marginalized groups such as the mentally ill and disabled.

That Commonwealth funding cuts of over $231 million for public housing under the Commonwealth State Housing Agreement be immediately restored.

That the Commonwealth government sponsors and funds a collaborative community and corporate sector partnership, which will proactively address both the alleviation and prevention of homelessness by developing appropriate responses.

That government funds be made immediately available to research and update the facts regarding homelessness.

That government departments providing services to homeless people conduct focus groups with groups and individuals who represent homeless people to identify the needs of homeless people and better target government funds. 

That service provision guidelines be amended by funding bodies to allow for greater accessibility for homeless people by increasing entry and exit points.

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WESLEY MISSION SERVICES

In the last year, Wesley Mission provided accommodation for more than 1,300 homeless people including many women and children.

Here are examples of the care Wesley Mission provides to the homeless:

Wesley Dalmar Short Term Unit Program provides accommodation for families who are homeless for reasons such as relocation, eviction, fire, domestic violence, financial difficulties etc. Residents of one of Wesley Mission's retirement villages provide a 'Welcome Basket' to help each family settle in. The Short Term Unit program is one of very few which can accommodate families, which include couples with children, sole fathers, large families, members of extended family and persons with a disability. 

During 1997/98, 16 families were housed, with 117 families being turned away. Of the families housed there were 49 children and 22 adults. The numbers for 1999-2000 are similar with 14 families being housed, and 78+ being turned away. Families housed consisted of 35 children and 19 adults.

A full-time worker helps families find long-term housing, and may help with financial or personal/relationship counselling, or family therapy. Wesley Clothing supply appropriate clothing for those in need. With many children in the program, parenting advice is given and families are encouraged to access local playgroups, kids clubs, dental clinic and early childhood centre. In school holidays we are sometimes able to secure sponsorships for children to attend "self-esteem building" camps such as Wesley Mission's Operation Hope at Vision Valley. 

Wesley Dalmar Independent Living Program Central Coast works specifically with and for young people (16 to 22 year olds), accepting referrals and liaising with housing and accommodation bodies. The facility is able to provide up to 12 young people (11 female and 1 male) with accommodation in its program at any one time, with the opportunity to stay 12 months or more before they move on. Since July 2000 the service has had 50 referrals many not meeting the criteria and being turned away.

There is an increasing demand for services for homeless young single women and couples. The assistance provided to those who we are unable to assist immediately ranges from direct referrals, to other appropriate services or to those being placed on a waiting list for a vacancy.

Wesley Dalmar Independent Living Program Ashfield provides assistance to young people (over 18 year olds) in the Ashfield LGA. In the last 12 months120 young people have been referred for assistance, due to the size of the service 110 people have been turned away. These numbers have increased slightly from the previous period when 100 were referred and 104 were turned away.

The assistance provided may take various forms including: street outreach and referral; early intervention residential unit; living skills training program in client's own home; living skills preparation program for clients entering independent living; residential units for intensive living skills development; supported accommodation; independent living skills for intra-state clients accessing eating disorder services; child support and parenting education young parents and aftercare program; exit houses; and after-care for clients

Edward Eagar Lodge is a crisis hostel which provides accommodation for homeless men and women on a nightly basis. In the 1999-2000 period, a total of 807 homeless people were accommodated. The Centre is effectively full every night, almost 100% occupancy rate. An additional 372 persons were either placed in cheap hotel accommodation or referred elsewhere. Sadly, 2,159 people were turned away. The increasing number of people who are turned away is a major concern. Some of these clients were forced to sleep under the stars, often in the rain. These are the people who are in the most desperate need of assistance.

At Edward Eagar Lodge, clients are assisted to make positive lifestyle choices through the provision of living skills, welfare support, health care and assistance to access more stable and permanent accommodation.

Day Centre activities provide services to people who live on the streets, in other hostels, private accommodation such as rooming houses or bed-sitters, and from public housing estates in the area. The Centre attracts at least one hundred people each day, providing meals, shower and laundry facilities, referral and information, pastoral care, television, lounge and recreational activities. 

Increasing numbers of families and single parents with babies or very young children are attending our Day Centres.

Over 21,000 meals are served in the Day Centre each year.

Serenity House provides supported accommodation for 52 homeless men. The majority of our clients have a significant addiction problem linked to their primary homelessness. The supportive environment and activities (Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, support groups, individual counselling, the development of living skills, volunteer opportunities, chapel services and Bible study) which are provided, help clients address the underlying issues in their lives. This assists them in their path to mainstream living.

Residents assist with voluntary work such as mowing neighbour's lawns and working in the second-hand furniture shop, which helps to build motivation and self esteem.

Serenity House has had a 91% occupancy rate in the 1999-2000 period, a total of 184 homeless people.

Community Housing seeks to provide a range of accommodation options for homeless men and women as the next step on from crisis hostel accommodation, which will allow clients to progress towards independent living with dignity. Each client has a support worker who assists them to develop a personal futures plan, to enable them to achieve their life goals and ambitions. A number of our clients have attended training courses, obtained employment and moved to independent living, developing new social and support networks.

There are 26 properties scattered across metropolitan Sydney accommodating a total of 110 beds. A total of 157 clients were housed during the year and the average length of stay was 29 weeks - approximately 7 months.

Charlie Woodward Lodge. The story of this Centre's namesake is symbolic of the possibility of new beginnings for all residents. Charlie Woodward was not a good man, he spent more time in jail than out. He was a violent man who was a gambler, a drunk and a thief. One day, he called into a Methodist mission hall with an accomplice to figure out how best to steal the organ. The power of the sermon, Charlie later testified, moved him to renounce his life of crime and become a Christian with a passion for helping others affected by alcohol and crime.

Charlie Woodward Lodge (CWL) received its first residents on the 22nd December 1995. The facility was built in response to the needs of aged homeless people who were residing in crisis accommodation at Edward Eagar Lodge and who were unable to access aged care accommodation.

To find out more about Wesley Mission Sydney, visit the website.

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Contacts

Media: Graeme Cole,
PR Manager, Wesley Mission.
02 9263 5350 or 0408 470 722
Email: graeme.cole@wesleymission.org.au

Report author: Sharon Hoogland
Strategic Planning & Development Manager
02 9263 5476 or 0417 259 089
Email: sharon.hoogland@wesleymission.org.au 

For further information on:

Homeless Persons Services contact
Rev Noreen Towers on 02 9361 0981
(Manager Homeless Persons Services)

Community Housing contact
Robert Neligan on 9558 1001

Serenity House contact
Nerida Dunkerley on 9826 6219

Domestic violence and Family support contact
Maria Kacimaiwai on 9804 7255
(Manager Dalmar Child & Family Care)

Aged Care Services, Charlie Woodward Lodge, contact
Sandy Weule on 9874 8144
(Senior Manager)

Wesley Health & Counselling Services contact
Bernard McNair on 9716 1481
(Senior Manager)

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