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Short term funding for ACT homelessness services is just not good enough

By Rebecca Vassarotti - 22 December 2016 9

ACT homelessness

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/

What’s Your opinion?


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9 Responses to
Short term funding for ACT homelessness services is just not good enough
1
rommeldog56 9:38 am
22 Dec 16
#

I agree that in a place as affluent as Canberra, to have the 2nd highest rate of homelessness in the country is totally unacceptable. However, I think its a bit rich to point the bone at the Feds – no matter which party is in power Federally.

What about the ACT Labor/Greens Govt fiscal priorities ?? What about the ACT Labor/Greens Govt poor record on housing affordability/affordable housing and provisioning for the homeless in general ?

But, yes, yes, yes, its the Feds – again !!

Canberrians can change this. But will they ???

2
dungfungus 11:54 am
22 Dec 16
#

rommeldog56 said :

I agree that in a place as affluent as Canberra, to have the 2nd highest rate of homelessness in the country is totally unacceptable. However, I think its a bit rich to point the bone at the Feds – no matter which party is in power Federally.

What about the ACT Labor/Greens Govt fiscal priorities ??

What about the ACT Labor/Greens Govt poor record on housing affordability/affordable housing and provisioning for the homeless in general ?

But, yes, yes, yes, its the Feds – again !!

Canberrians can change this. But will they ???

Quick, look over there, is that a new coffee shop with free smashed avo with 2 skinny lattes?

3
devils_advocate 12:56 pm
22 Dec 16
#

rommeldog56 said :

I agree that in a place as affluent as Canberra, to have the 2nd highest rate of homelessness in the country is totally unacceptable.

I think the two issues are related. Because we are so affluent, house prices (and therefore rent prices) have grown out of reach of many. I remember reading about a fellow who was living out of his car after having suffered an involuntary redundancy during the public service culling. No substance abuse issues, no apparent mental health issues, just lost his job and couldn’t afford his place any more. So living out of a car while he looked for work.

Made me really think about my own financial choices and my approach to debt. I suspect there are a lot more people than most realise – including many on quite high salaries – who have just one paycheck between themselves and this exact situation.

4
Masquara 5:40 pm
22 Dec 16
#

They need to tighten up on the housing cheats. That would free up hundreds of dwellings.

5
gooterz 10:30 pm
22 Dec 16
#

Whats the source for this info?

http://www.homelessnessaustralia.org.au/index.php/about-homelessness/homeless-statistics
Says the figure is up 70% since 2006 to 1785.
You say that 1200 positions are offered every night.

ABS definition of homelessness is that its not a fixed address or the house is inadequate, this also includes children who are staying with friends who have left home for one reason or another and not simply people living on the street.

If you remove those with a house but not their own, just limiting to people in homeless shelters its about 1130 those spending a night on the street is more like 30-50.

I wonder how many of those homeless are actually divorced men crippled by child support kicked out of the family home though no fault divorce.

6
Rebecca Vassarotti 9:18 am
23 Dec 16
#

rommeldog56 said :

I agree that in a place as affluent as Canberra, to have the 2nd highest rate of homelessness in the country is totally unacceptable. However, I think its a bit rich to point the bone at the Feds – no matter which party is in power Federally.

What about the ACT Labor/Greens Govt fiscal priorities ??

What about the ACT Labor/Greens Govt poor record on housing affordability/affordable housing and provisioning for the homeless in general ?

But, yes, yes, yes, its the Feds – again !!

Canberrians can change this. But will they ???

This issue is absolutely a joint responsibility between Federal and ACT Governments. The bulk of the funding is matched funding, so agreement needs to be made between the Commonwealth and States and Territories which is why this was such an important meeting. States and Territories have been reluctant to make funding commitments beyond the agreements with the Commonwealth without knowing what the policy settings federally are going to be. I think that is probably reasonable given the indications are that it could be a vastly different funding arrangement. In relation to commitments of the ACT Gov currently, this is covered in the parliamentary agreement and speaks to enhanced funding to specialist housing providers and other commitments to support the sector. It will be important to ensure that these commitments are implemented. Completely agree we have the power to do alot here locally https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/actgreens/pages/5798/attachments/original/1477873501/Parliamentary-Agreement.pdf

7
Rebecca Vassarotti 9:27 am
23 Dec 16
#

devils_advocate said :

rommeldog56 said :

I agree that in a place as affluent as Canberra, to have the 2nd highest rate of homelessness in the country is totally unacceptable.

I think the two issues are related. Because we are so affluent, house prices (and therefore rent prices) have grown out of reach of many. I remember reading about a fellow who was living out of his car after having suffered an involuntary redundancy during the public service culling. No substance abuse issues, no apparent mental health issues, just lost his job and couldn’t afford his place any more. So living out of a car while he looked for work.

Made me really think about my own financial choices and my approach to debt. I suspect there are a lot more people than most realise – including many on quite high salaries – who have just one paycheck between themselves and this exact situation.

There is some really important work going on at the moment around understanding how Australians are travelling in relation to financial resilience. Earlier this year, UNSW released a report into this issue. It found that many Australians simply don’t have the resources to bounce back if they have a financial shock. It found that there were 2 million Australians were in severe financial stress and financial vulnerable. If you don’t have access to savings, are carrying high levels of debt, you don’t have family or friends that can help out you are in real trouble. A copy of the report can be found here: http://www.csi.edu.au/media/uploads/Financial_Resilience_in_Australia_-_Summary_Report.pdf

8
Rebecca Vassarotti 9:51 am
23 Dec 16
#

gooterz said :

Whats the source for this info?

http://www.homelessnessaustralia.org.au/index.php/about-homelessness/homeless-statistics
Says the figure is up 70% since 2006 to 1785.
You say that 1200 positions are offered every night.

ABS definition of homelessness is that its not a fixed address or the house is inadequate, this also includes children who are staying with friends who have left home for one reason or another and not simply people living on the street.

If you remove those with a house but not their own, just limiting to people in homeless shelters its about 1130 those spending a night on the street is more like 30-50.

I wonder how many of those homeless are actually divorced men crippled by child support kicked out of the family home though no fault divorce.

Thanks for your comments. The figures come from The Australian Bureau of Statistics census figures, population estimates and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. The evidence suggests that there are 50 people for every 10,000 in the ACT, and the 2016 AIHW report found 62% of people who were homeless in the ACT were located in specialist housing services. We are lucky that the majority of homeless people in the ACT are not living on the street but this doesn’t mean that they are not homeless. As you note, there are a number of accommodation situations that people who are in to be defined as homelessness.

More women than men are in specialist homelessness services. While in the homelessness population, 55% are male, and 45% are female, in specialist homelessness services, the split is 54% female and 46% male. This means that men are more likely to be sleeping rough. They are however also less likely to be accompanied by children ( 21% verses 32%).

There are many reasons that people face homelessness. The best data we have is again from the AIHW. When collecting information regarding the main reasons cited as creating homelessness, interpersonal issues rate highly, with domestic and family violence being one of the leading causes for homelessness.

9
gooterz 6:55 pm
23 Dec 16
#

Rebecca Vassarotti said :

gooterz said :

Whats the source for this info?

http://www.homelessnessaustralia.org.au/index.php/about-homelessness/homeless-statistics
Says the figure is up 70% since 2006 to 1785.
You say that 1200 positions are offered every night.

ABS definition of homelessness is that its not a fixed address or the house is inadequate, this also includes children who are staying with friends who have left home for one reason or another and not simply people living on the street.

If you remove those with a house but not their own, just limiting to people in homeless shelters its about 1130 those spending a night on the street is more like 30-50.

I wonder how many of those homeless are actually divorced men crippled by child support kicked out of the family home though no fault divorce.

Thanks for your comments. The figures come from The Australian Bureau of Statistics census figures, population estimates and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. The evidence suggests that there are 50 people for every 10,000 in the ACT, and the 2016 AIHW report found 62% of people who were homeless in the ACT were located in specialist housing services. We are lucky that the majority of homeless people in the ACT are not living on the street but this doesn’t mean that they are not homeless. As you note, there are a number of accommodation situations that people who are in to be defined as homelessness.

More women than men are in specialist homelessness services. While in the homelessness population, 55% are male, and 45% are female, in specialist homelessness services, the split is 54% female and 46% male. This means that men are more likely to be sleeping rough. They are however also less likely to be accompanied by children ( 21% verses 32%).

There are many reasons that people face homelessness. The best data we have is again from the AIHW. When collecting information regarding the main reasons cited as creating homelessness, interpersonal issues rate highly, with domestic and family violence being one of the leading causes for homelessness.

The obvious reason is that men are permitted into most of the domestic violence shelters only their children. Which means that men are less likely to be able to take the kids and run to excape, without putting their children onto the street.

ABS seems to think that homeless children are majorly under represented likely due to them listing a home address they don’t plan on returning too. Could it be that we are in a housing affordability crisis?

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