Having a place to call home is a fundamental human right, but unfortunately too many people in our communities find themselves without a roof over their head – often for reasons beyond their control.
It’s Homelessness Week and we’re reminded that homelessness is one of the most potent examples of disadvantage in the community, and one of the most important markers of social exclusion.
The statistics are alarming:
- On any given night, more than 116,000 Australians are homeless
- Two in every five homeless people are under the age of 25
- More than a third of people presenting at services cite family violence or relationship breakdown as the main reason for seeking assistance.
Even more alarming is that the rate of homelessness in Australia is increasing with no signs of slowing down; the rate has gone up 4.6 per cent over the past five years. How is this possible in a country as lucky as ours?
Being the level of government that is closest to the community, it is not an option for us to sweep this issue under the rug. Many councils across the country are responding in innovative ways – albeit with limited resources – by working in close partnership with other levels of government and a range of community and not-for-profit organisations.
State and territory local government associations are also working hard at the policy level with their state government counterparts as well as with their council members to help find solutions to homelessness and its causes.
This work often goes unrecognised so I’d like to take this opportunity to thank councils and state/territory local government associations for their important work in this area.
Following are just a few examples of the great work being done by councils but I know there are many many more.
- Penrith City Council in New South Wales supports a coordinated local approach to address this community challenge through networks such as the Penrith Homelessness Interagency.
- Gold Coast City Council in Queensland holds a one-stop shop event providing free goods and services to the city's homeless – Homeless Connect.
- And the City of Joondalup in Western Australia has provided ‘homelessness awareness’ training for its officers on how to approach homeless people and give them information on support services.
State/territory and federal government support remains crucial to helping our sector address the drivers of homelessness – which include low incomes, high housing costs and family violence – as well as resourcing homelessness services and pathways out of homelessness.
This is why the ALGA Board has added this as an election priority for the coming federal election. ALGA will call for the federal government to support local government’s current work in addressing affordable housing and homelessness issues by:
- reinstating a national governance model which will develop national strategies for housing affordability and homelessness; a model that includes all levels of government, ends the blame game and implements real solutions.
- acknowledging the important role local government can play, with appropriate funding provided for innovative partnership models on housing.
With this in place – and growth in partnerships with other stakeholders such as the private sector and community organisations – we can begin to achieve enduring solutions to housing affordability and homelessness issues in our communities.
Let’s play our part in reversing the homelessness rate in our country.
Mayor David O’Loughlin
PS. If you want to find out more or send a message to your local MP on this issue via the Everybody’s Home campaign, check out everybodyshome.com.au; or Twitter at @_EverybodysHome or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/EverybodysHomeCampaign/.