Canberra’s homeless and those facing domestic or family violence will receive emergency housing under a $3 million funding package announced today by the ACT Government.
While the funding will fast-track a number of projects that support rough sleepers or people facing homelessness or domestic and family violence, ACT Council of Social Services CEO Dr Emma Campbell said the additional funding is also necessary to ensure existing service clients can safely participate in social distancing and isolation, while also meeting the needs of new clients.
“The community sector is seeing increased demand from clients who may not have previously been accessing services, but who now require support due to COVID-19,” Dr Campbell said.
According to ACT Shelter, which provides advice and advocacy on housing policy issues, there are about 65 people sleeping rough in Canberra each night.
ACT Deputy Chief Minister Yvette Berry said the funding allows the homelessness sector, and domestic and family violence services to expand their operational capacity and relieve the pressure caused by COVID-19 and the onset of winter.
“The ACT Government will continue to work with the sector to plan and prepare for the impact of COVID-19 on our most vulnerable community members,” Ms Berry said.
“The government is providing significant extra funding to increase the available temporary accommodation, expand service capacity to house rough sleepers and enable services to meet the increased need from the Canberra community.”
The funding is in addition to Commonwealth funding for responding to family violence, which will be announced in the coming weeks. It also follows the ACT Government’s one-off $250 payment to all social housing tenants, full rent relief for six months for community housing providers and $1.5 million for the Canberra Relief Network.
The Domestic Violence Crisis Service (DVCS) will receive $350,000 to enhance direct crisis support for women, children and families impacted by domestic and family violence, including emergency accommodation.
A further $125,000 will assist Safer Families Assistance to provide grants associated with sustaining or re-establishing a family home. This could include mortgage or rental payments, furnishing, legal services and any other expenses.
The Canberra Rape Crisis Centre will receive $75,000 to support Canberrans impacted by sexual violence.
DVCS CEO Sonia Di Mezza told Region Media they have remained open during the pandemic and the funding was very timely given they have had to postpone or cancel many fundraising events that help provide emergency accommodation.
“The majority of our clients are speaking of difficulties they are facing in the COVID-19 environment,” Ms Di Mezza said.
“The two most prevalent issues are an increase in the frequency and severity of violence, including non-physical violence, our clients are being subjected to and concerns and difficulties about accommodation if they choose to leave the relationship, and for those who have already left the relationship,” Ms Di Mezza said.
Further aspects of the funding package include:
- $330,000 for OneLink to expand existing operations in response to increased demand on the homelessness services sector
- a further $150,000 for OneLink to increase its existing capacity to coordinate referrals for temporary accommodation options such as hotelling, including for service providers of congregate living accommodation where a client needs to self-isolate or quarantine
- $100,000 for CatholicCare to fast track the Axial Housing pilot as the preferred and primary option to house rough sleepers during COVID-19
- $127,000 to upgrade and operate temporary accommodation at The Lodge run by Argyle Housing for men experiencing homelessness during COVID-19
- $150,000 for CatholicCare to establish and operate Mackillop House to respond to the growing need for safe supported housing for women and children who are experiencing homelessness during COVID-19
- $305,000 to furnish and upgrade existing public housing to be made available as crisis and shelter accommodation
- $1 million in grant funding to support community services organisations adapt to essential business changes, including staff safety fixtures and technology requirements to continue operations remotely.