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Tuesday, June 15, 2021

COVID response proves homelessness is a solvable problem

Canberrans who sought support for homelessness during the coronavirus were more likely now than before the pandemic to find temporary or permanent housing, due to an increase in government resources and a positive shift in public attitude, the Australian Alliance to End Homelessness (AAEH) told an online forum on Monday 27 July.   

During the COVID crisis, around 16,000 households around the country have been supported by a homelessness service.  

Centre for Social Impact director at the University of Western Australia, Paul Flatau, said it was evidence that a “housing first principle” was having an impact.

“If we can do this now, we can do more later,” he said.

ACT Shelter CEO Travis Gilbert said an increase in funds had enabled 22 previously homeless Canberrans to find permanent housing and 39 people were being supported in hotels and motels.

Mr Gilbert said COVID stimulus had fast-tracked the opening of new crisis accommodation at MacKillop House – housing 26 women – and an upgrade of 18 rooms at The Lodge, a homelessness shelter for males.

He said while the new accommodation shelters were working well, service providers had reported concerns of an escalation in poor mental health among clients and domestic violence services had experienced a 23% increase during COVID.

“Our challenge is the funding is only there till October,” Mr Gilbert said. “What happens next?  People have had a chance to be placed in warm and comfortable housing. Where do they go next?

“Canberra rentals are expensive; a two-bedroom apartment is nudging $500 a week, which is not affordable for people making under $50,000.”

AAEH CEO David Pearson said he was committed to homelessness as a “solvable problem”, citing Finland as an example of massive government investment to eradicate homelessness.

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