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Issue #1721      March 2, 2016

The homeless are still homeless

Statement, Homelessness Australia

Last December, the most recent figures from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare underlined that more Australians had received assistance from homelessness services this year than last.

Almost 256,000 people, more than a quarter of a million of us face a daily battle for survival. They are young and old, mothers and children, families and single people.

Domestic violence is still the main reason they seek assistance (25%) while another 21% need help due to a housing crisis. Housing affordability, financial difficulties, relationship breakdowns, health and mental health issues are all still significant drivers into homelessness.

More than 70,000 children received assistance; this includes 42,000 who were under 10. Aboriginal and Torres Strait islanders are still over represented with 1 in 4 clients being Indigenous. A link between mental health issues and homelessness is still evident with a quarter of clients having an identified mental health issue.

Remote/very remote areas had the highest rate of homelessness service use and the largest growth in use over the past four years: 41,780 lone young people (aged 15-24) approached homelessness services. More than 8,500 people slept rough in the month before, coming to homelessness services (that is 1,000 more than the previous year).

Housing is still problematic: 70% of the unmet requests included the need for accommodation. For a single person with children, this rose to 93% of cases.

Despite the number of people who needed accommodation being similar to the previous year, the proportion who were able to be provided with accommodation has decreased to 60%; 6% received long term accommodation of the 33% of people who needed it.

Homelessness services provided more than 6.5 million nights of accommodation in 2014-15, about 0.4million fewer than 2013-14.

“The lack of exit points from homelessness remains the biggest challenge for homelessness services,” CEO of Homelessness Australia, Glenda Stevens, said. “A lack of affordable housing is a double edged sword. It drives people into homelessness and is a major barrier to exiting homelessness.

“The biggest positive out of the data is the reduction in the number of people turned away from services,” Ms Stevens said. “The number of people unable to be assisted reduced by 22% in 2014-15.”

Homelessness services are proving they are essential. In addition to providing accommodation and tenancy support they provide heath, family, drug/alcohol legal and financial services, assistance with education, employment and advocacy and practical support such as meals, transport and laundry facilities.

“The data shows that homelessness services are helping a significant number of people into a better life situation,” she said “The number of people in education, employment and housing is higher after receiving support.”

Action needed

Homelessness Australia has called on all Australians, especially the media, to pay ongoing and close attention to the scale of the human trauma that is unnecessarily being allowed to happen within our first world society. While the number of people turned away did decrease, almost 120,000 people had their needs unmet, left to stay in unstable housing, or homelessness or try and utilise other networks.

“Just because we have heard it before, does not mean we can ignore homelessness,“ she said. “We urge government to see investment in homelessness services as essential. While there are positives coming from the data, the fact remains that 256,000 people needed assistance, and a further 120,000 were turned away.

Next article – Protest against Rio’s actions

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