NSW homelessness on the rise

By Angela Dorizas

The New South Wales Housing Minister David Borger today revealed that there has been a dramatic increase in the number of people seeking emergency accommodation across the state.

Housing NSW recorded an increase of more than 7600 in the number of people seeking immediate housing assistance, which is an average increase of 643 people per month on the previous year.

The demand for temporary housing cost the Department more than $9 million, a 51 per cent increase in spending compared to last year.

In addition to finding shelter for 7600 homeless people, Housing NSW provided Rentstart for 28,000 households requiring assistance with bond and advance rental payments.

The peak body for homelessness service providers in NSW said those figures are outdated and do not take into account long term homeless people who have not presented for assistance.

Homelessness NSW chief executive officer Sue Cripps said the global financial crisis has caused a spike in homelessness that was “far worse” than the data relased by the State Government.

“There is very suddenly a new group of people who are in crisis and presenting in need of assistance – people who you would have never thought of as being homeless before,” Cripps told Government News.

“It is going to require a whole new policy response and resources. A lot of initiatives are going to be needed.

“There is a real need to get some really quick and prompt policy responses and resources happening because we know that the research tells us that the longer people stay homeless the more complicated their issues become and the harder it is for them to break that cycle.”

Cripps said the Federal Government was already providing real policy leadership through its white paper released last December, titled The Road Home – a national approach to ending homelessness.

“For the first time in my lifetime we actually have a Federal Government that is leading on social policy and is really focussing on resolving the issue of homelessness,” she said.

“They’ve set targets where they want to halve the rate of homelessness by 2020, which is significant – we’ve never had such leadership before.”

She added that Homelessness NSW plans to work closely with the State Government as it develops a state-wide action plan to tackle the spike in homelessness.

Local government will also play its part in the implementation of homelessness policies at a local and regional level.

“There is a really strong role for local government,” Cripps said.

“Local government needs to be part of any planning process at a regional level – if not leading the planning process – so there is real engagement, strategy and planning around the resources that are available.”

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