Easter is a time to commit to helping the homeless

The Greens spokesperson on Family and Community Services, Jan Barham, has encouraged people to consider what their local community can do to help those who are homeless and at risk of homelessness.

“For those who celebrate Easter as a religious holiday, this is of course a time for reflection on self-sacrifice and caring for people. But for everyone this is a time when we should remember our most vulnerable and what can be done to support them,” Ms Barham said.

“While many people are planning to get away from home during the long weekend or the upcoming school holidays, far too many Australians can’t even contemplate a holiday because they are struggling to find a stable home. The impact of homelessness will only worsen as winter approaches and the fact that an increasing number of children are homeless is of great concern.”

“Homelessness is an issue that all sides of politics recognise we must address. Last week the NSW upper house passed a motion I presented on homelessness, with MPs from the Government, ALP and the Christian Democrats all speaking strongly in support,” Ms Barham said.

“The acknowledgment of the crucial role of developing regional and local solutions is an important position. Many MP’s spoke of people in their community who have been affected by homelessness. At a community level, local government is encouraged to adopt initiatives that address homelessness. The motion proposed that the NSW Government consider funding a program that would assist councils with homelessness services.”

“I encourage everyone to take some time this long weekend to think about what they can do about homelessness in their community. Look at what you can do to help your community organisations that are struggling to help those people who are facing difficult times and contact your councillors about local action on this issue.”

“The clear message on homelessness is that it can happen to anyone. With job losses, illness and the shortage of affordable housing it is a sad reality for our country that the homeless rate is increasing. As a caring society this is one issue that we can all address at a local level. Taking the time to contribute to the needs of the vulnerable can make a real difference,” Ms Barham said.

Current Figures – 2011 Census date:
NSW – 28,190 homeless persons; 3,632 were aged under 12, and 2,642 aged 12-18.

Motion on Homelessness, as passed by NSW Legislative Council on 21 March 2013:
1. That, while taking into account the inherent difficulties in accurately measuring the rates of homelessness, this House notes that:

 (a) according to the 2006 National Census, at least 27,374 people were considered homeless in New South Wales,
 (b) according to a 2009 report from the Australian Institute of Health and Wellbeing (AIHW) entitled “Counting the Homeless”, this figure can be broken down into the following categories:
  (i) primary homelessness: at least 3,715 people, or 13 per cent of respondents, were sleeping rough in improvised dwellings,
  (ii) secondary homelessness: at least 16,033 people, or 59% of respondents, were staying with friends or relatives, or in short term accommodation provided through formal assistance,
  (iii) tertiary homelessness: at least 7,626 people, or 28 per cent of respondents, were sleeping in facilities providing longer term accommodation such as boarding houses,
 (c) according to the same AIHW report, there is a significant incidence of homelessness among children and young people in New South Wales, with 10,587 of those counted aged under 24 (39 per cent),
 (d) according to the same AIHW report, the number of older homeless people is growing, with 30 per cent of the homeless in New South Wales aged 45 or older, up from 25 per cent in 2001,
 (e) it is widely estimated that over 7 per cent of the entire homeless population of New South Wales are Aboriginal, which is well above the 2.2 per cent of the total New South Wales Aboriginal population, and
 (f) documented rates of the prevalence of mental health issues in homeless people vary markedly but an extensive research paper published in 1998 by Hodder, Teeson and Burich entitled “Down and Out in Sydney” found that 75 per cent of participants in the study had at least one mental illness, compared to 20 per cent in the general population.

2. That this House further notes:

 (a) the report of the NSW Auditor General entitled “Responding to Homelessness”, dated May 2007,
 (b) the report of New South Wales Legislative Council Standing Committee on Social Issues entitled “Homelessness and low-cost rental accommodation”, dated September 2009,
 (c) the Government’s subsequent response to the report of the Social Issues Committee’s inquiry, dated 2010, and
 (d) the revised National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness signed on 13 April 2012.

3. That this House welcomes:

 (a) the continuation of the Premier’s Advisory Council on Homelessness, and
 (b) the implementation of the revised Homeless Persons Protocol.

4. That this House encourages:

 (a) all local councils to have a nominated staff member tasked with the responsibility of ensuring their council adheres to the Homeless Persons Protocol, and
 (b) all local councils to report on local initiatives for addressing homelessness in their local government area in their annual report.

5. That this House calls for:

 (a) a review of the ten Regional Homeless Action Plans that were developed in July 2010, together with a progress report, and
 (b) consideration of a funding program to support local government to meet the needs of homeless people.