Integrated approach needed to address Australia’s rising homelessness problem
The release today of ABS data showing an alarming increase in the number of people experiencing homelessness underlines the importance of not only making affordable housing a priority but providing integrated support services to address the complex causes.
The number of people experiencing homelessness has grown from 104,000 to 116,000 in five years (2011-2016) driven largely by an increase in the number of people living in severely crowded dwellings. The number of people in this category has grown by almost 10,000 to 51,000 nationally, and in NSW it has increased by 74 per cent.
“Six out of ten people experiencing homelessness are now women,” said Wesley Mission CEO the Rev Dr Keith Garner.
“More families are fleeing domestic violence and seeking shelter from providers like Wesley Mission.
“The message is clear: we need a sector wide-response that better incorporates the needs of families. The homeless demographic is diverse. More families must equate to more accommodation with two, three and four bedrooms and wrap around support services to deal with issues like financial stress and mental health.
“Our nation needs to adopt a housing first strategy but the answer is more than a bed. We are now dealing with a nationwide problem that requires not only an economic but an integrated social response across all arms and tiers of government.
“Wesley Mission supports a shift towards more flexible and sensitive criteria for housing facilities (both in the public system and community organisations) to incorporate all sizes of families.
“We also need simpler and more accessible systems and processes, along with more flexible and inclusive service models, among agencies, service providers and businesses engaged in activities related to family homelessness.
“Staff in homeless services need to engage with displaced families for an extended period—before, during and after the establishment of stable accommodation. Assistance should include a long-term recovery plan that not only takes in quick access to stable accommodation but counselling and support.”
People who are homeless suffer trauma.
“The idea of a “tell us once” policy is important in minimising the number of times that traumatised families have to relate their experiences must be made a priority as well as the sharing of information across government and the private sector, “Dr Garner said. “It also empowers community service staff to make the necessary links to help families recover from their crises.”
Last year Wesley Mission supported almost 4000 people experiencing homelessness.