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Sunday, March 7, 2021
Ian Cubitt's
Ian Cubitt's

Community sector welcomes government homelessness spend but says more is needed

The pre-budget spending announcements are coming thick and fast ahead of next Tuesday’s ACT Budget; with the government allocating homelessness services their first $2 million of a promised $18 million over the parliamentary term.

A recent report into Government Services found a 20% increase in unmet need for homelessness services in the ACT and the average wait for public housing has blown out to 3.5 years; a problem exacerbated by Canberra’s rental market becoming the most expensive in the country.

The Government has funded four programs aimed at alleviating homelessness:

  • Expand the Early Morning Centre to seven days per week.
  • Increase emergency support and accommodation to OneLink to provide tenancy and client support services for people experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness.
  • Provide additional funding to ACT Shelter to provide systemic advocacy in the housing sector.
  • Provide funding to Mackillop House and Winter Lodge services and expand the Axial Housing service.

None of these programs would address homelessness for Canberrans experiencing the cross-section of physical and psychosocial disability, which is at critically low shortages.

Australian Alliance to End Homelessness director, David Person, said the funding was a great investment, but the ACT Government had stopped short of setting a goal to end homelessness.

“Canberra is well-placed to end rough sleeping,” Mr Pearson said.

“It wouldn’t take a huge amount to get there.

“But it’s not just about the housing stock, it’s also about providing the right supports to make tenancy sustainable. And the ACT Government has stopped short of setting that goal.”

Mental Health Community Coalition ACT acting chief executive, Leith Felton-Taylor, said the prevalence of mental health in homelessness was around 40% and the experience of becoming homeless was an additional trauma.

Ms Felton-Taylor said there was a campaign to grow Canberra’s accessible housing stock, in line with universal design, but it was in the early days.

“Homelessness needs a holistic integrated response,” she said.

“This is backed up by the productivity report on mental health.”

Ms Felton-Taylor said homelessness services needed to be focused on the person as an individual and their needs rather than the services they require.

She said a multi-pronged approach that addressed stigma and discrimination and provided trauma-informed, “wrap-around services” was needed to address homeless in the ACT.

“Some landlords hear that a person is difficult and choose to not rent to that person.”

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