Did you know that the ACT has the second highest rate of homelessness in Australia? Every night almost 2000 people in our town don’t have a secure place to sleep. It is distressing to know that almost half of these are under the age of 25, and more than a quarter are children– most often part of a family that is facing homelessness as a result of domestic and family violence. Evidence suggests that all people who have experienced homelessness have also experienced trauma, and most are highly distressed at the point where they are trying to find help.
Thankfully, refuge and safety is found for many people in a specialist homelessness organisation. These services provide shelter, financial support and emotional support. In Canberra, close to 1200 people are housed by these services each night, with many organisations providing longer term support. We are lucky in the ACT to have services that cater for families, single people, particular cultural groups, and people who have faced issues such as domestic and family violence. These services are jointly funded by the ACT and Commonwealth Governments, and provided by community organisations, who deliver extraordinary services to people facing distress and hardship. Without these services, people would be living in cars, sleeping rough or couch surfing.
Earlier this month, the ACT Government joined other Governments to discuss the future funding of these services. This was an extremely important meeting, as there has been uncertainty of ongoing funding for years, with the Commonwealth Government continuing to flag a desire for change but being unable to articulate the changes they would like to see. While there was relief at the announcement that there would be another year of funding guaranteed, this sees services facing their fourth year of single year funding rollovers. This comes on top of the defunding of national housing peaks (which was announced by the Government on Christmas eve two years ago), and for ACT services comes after dealing with a 30% funding reduction that was the result of Commonwealth changes to the funding model that were implemented progressively from 2013 to 2015.
It is impossible for services to adequately plan, provide secure employment for staff and continue to deliver high quality services when funding is drip fed from year to year. It is unfair to ask community organisations to carry the risk that flows from the inability of Governments to make decisions and provide long term funding.
Turning around the shameful reality of our status as a capital city with one of the highest rates of homelessness in Australia requires long term vision and planning, joint effort and commitment. It will never be achieved in an environment of short termism and uncertainty.
How do you feel about the fact we have such a high rate of homelessness? What do you think we should do to support services that are helping people who are facing homelessness? Do you have ideas on how we can ensure that local homelessness organisations can continue to serve our community under these challenging circumstances?
If you require assistance in finding accommodation and other support, get in contact with OneLink on 1800 176 468 or via: http://www.onelink.org.au/contact-us or contact Ask Izzy on https://askizzy.org.au/