Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
12 Nov 2012
12 Nov 2012
The number of homeless men, women and children across Australia on Census night 2011 is up by 17% on 2006 figures.
In a report released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), the number of people experiencing homelessness in August 2011 increased from 89,728 in 2006 to 105,237.
This represents a rise of 17% nationally. But in NSW, Tasmania, Victoria and the ACT this figure was even higher at 20%.
Five years ago in NSW there were 34 people per 10,000 who were reported as homeless. This figure how now risen to 40.8 per 10,000. The highest number of homeless tragically continues to be the Northern Territory with Indigenous people making up a large percentage of those without shelter. Although figures from the 2011 Census showed a small decrease, in the Northern Territory 731 people per 10,000 are still homeless.
Nationally this figure is far lower but it is no less troubling with the ABS figures revealing in August 2011 there were 49 homeless people for every 10,000 Australians.
Dr John Falzon, CEO of the National Council of St Vincent de Paul says the increase in homelessness across Australia is disappointing and testament to what he describes as "the magnitude of the problems faced by those in the community sector working to end homelessness."
Among the findings from the 2011 Census statistics on homelessness is that 60% of those counted as homeless are under 35 years of age with a rise of 22% in the 25-34 year old age group from figures compiled five years ago.
Also of concern is that while the rate of male homelessness fell slightly to 56 males per 10,000 males, the rate is up for women with 42 out of every 10,000 females in Australia now among the homeless.
Most women who have only temporary and insecure accommodation are single mothers but the Census report on homelessness does not include the number of children who are either homeless or without permanent shelter. However estimates by welfare agencies put this figure at above 12,000.
"In a country as wealthy as Australia the rise in the numbers of homeless men women and children is a disgrace," says Michael Perusco, CEO of Vinnies NSW.
Like Dr Falzon, Mr Perusco is disappointed in the rise in the number of homeless but not surprised.
In the past few years he says Vinnies NSW has seen a steady and constant demand for its Matthew Talbot Homeless Services as well as an increasing number of people forced to turn to Vinnies for help for the first time in their lives.
"Australia's housing crisis has a lot to do with the poverty we are seeing, in particular in Sydney where there are very high housing costs and extremely high rents," he says.
Increasingly, families and individuals are being priced out of the private rental market, and with social housing at a premium, end up in temporary insecure accommodation and overcrowded crisis shelters with few options and nowhere else to go.
In a small piece of good news, the latest ABS figures show a reduction in the national numbers of those sleeping rough, which have dropped from 7,247 to 6,813.
Vinnies' National Council chief, Dr Falzon says this shows that concerted efforts by agencies such as St Vincent de Paul, Mission Australia and similar NGOs appear to be working.
While he welcomes the slight reduction in the numbers of "rough sleepers," he says the figures released by the ABS today reveal an urgent need to focus on the issue of overcrowding and inappropriate and inadequate housing.
"We need to address this issue," he says and called on the Federal Government for funding certainty for homelessness services, insisting it was vital agencies such as Vinnies know where they are going beyond June 2013's expiry of the $1.1 billion National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness between the Commonwealth and the States.
Under the Agreement state and federal governments provided funding support for 180 services helping the homeless across Australia.
Dr Falzon also believes it is also paramount state and Federal Governments recognise the link between social housing and homelessness, pointing out that it is cheaper in the long term to house someone rather than maintain them in a state of homelessness.
"Specialised support is essential for many people who are experiencing homelessness but there is no excuse for not pursing and guaranteeing the human right of housing for all. Governments must do what markets cannot in ensuring no one is left out."
Today's report from the ABS on homelessness in Australia comes four years after the (then) Rudd Government promised to halve homelessness across the country by 2020. Kevin Rudd had a special passion for the initiative when he first introduced it in 2008, recalling how he and his family became homeless for a period after the death of his father and his mother's struggle to support her two small children.
But now with NSW, Victoria, Tasmania and Queensland state governments crying poor and the Federal Government battling to bring the budget back into surplus, funding of the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness may well be in jeopardy.
SHARED FROM ARCHDIOCESE OF SYDNEY