Canberra’s specialist homelessness services will get a boost in the upcoming ACT Budget, with the ACT Government committing $2.6 million to expand capacity to get more people off the street.
During the next two years, the government will pump $1.2 million towards funding Mackillop House and Winter Lodge services, and expanding the Axial Housing service.
An extra $300,000 over two years will be put towards the Early Morning Centre to expand it into a seven-day-a-week service, while OneLink will receive $450,000 over two years to increase the number of tenants it can support.
There will also be an additional $700,000 over four years for the ACT Shelter so more people with no and low income can access advice about housing.
There are around 1600 people who are homeless in the ACT on any given night, including around 50 people sleeping rough, which denotes people sleeping on the street and in cars.
In 2020, there were almost 9500 low-income rental households in rental stress, according to the ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS).
The CEO of CatholicCare in Canberra, Anne Kirwin, welcomed the investment, saying it was something that the service had been working towards over the last 12 months.
“Last year we all put aside politics and worked together to see how we could support people who were sleeping rough on the streets on Canberra to be able to find somewhere safe to live,” she said.
“It is very hard to self-isolate when you do not have a home.
“The [funding] means that many of [last year’s] initiatives are going to be able to continue on into 2021 and 2022, which is absolutely fantastic. We are going to be able to do something really amazing in terms of homelessness and rough sleeping in the ACT.”
Demand for services has been steadily increasing, with Mackillop House – which is run by CatholicCare – filling up its six dedicated houses for women with up to three children, in only two weeks.
ACT Minister for Homelessness and Housing Services Rebecca Vassarotti said every Canberran deserved secure housing.
“Everyone needs a home,” she said. “Secure housing that meets people’s needs is fundamental to their wellbeing, and the wellbeing of our community as a whole.
“As we’ve seen through the fires, the pandemic and the economic crises of the past year, unemployment, financial pressure and homelessness can strike suddenly.
“The ACT’s homelessness and housing services help to ensure all Canberrans, no matter what difficulties they’re facing, can be safe, healthy and feel a part of this community.”
ACT Deputy Chief Minister and Minister for Housing and Suburban Development, Yvette Berry, said the commitment in this budget will build upon the government’s commitment of 400 new homes and the renewal of another 1000 by 2026.
However, data compiled by Homelessness Australia and Everybody’s Home from the middle of 2020 revealed that Canberra had a shortfall of 3000 social houses.
Ms Berry said the ACT Government would aspire to add an additional 600 affordable rentals to the market.
“There will always be more that we need to do to support people in our community, particularly those who need affordable or public housing, but this is a significant investment,” she said.
“[The ACT] has the highest per capita in the country spent on public housing and the highest number per capita of public housing in the country as well.”
The ACT Government has committed to spending $18 million on specialist homelessness services during the next four years under the Parliamentary Agreement.