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Shelter highlights housing for National Homelessness week

"Accommodation is a human right."

Shelter highlights housing for National Homelessness week

A State Budget surplus of $4.5 billion and a waiting list of 60,000 for Public Housing doesn’t seem to add up.

That's the opinion of Coast Shelter Executive Officer Laurie Maher, as National Homelessness week returns for another year and thrusts housing affordability and the welfare of those sleeping rough back into the spotlight.

“The right to shelter and accommodation is a human right, and we can hardly describe our community as being a healthy society if the numbers of people sleeping on the street, in cars, on couches and so forth, is so significant,” Mr Maher says.

“But as we see the percentage of those people increasing year by year, it really does (suggest) that we need to be doing something. The finances are in a good state, with a $4.5 billion surplus, we need to be putting significant sums into the provision of affordable housing for those on low fixed incomes.”

Mr Maher says the waiting list for public housing on the Central Coast sits at about 10 to 12 years, while statewide there are at least 60,000 on the waiting list for public housing.

“Coast Shelter provided 64,043 overnight stays for homeless men, women and children last year, but still could not accommodate almost four out of every five homeless people who came to us for assistance," Mr Maher says. 

This year's homelessness week comes as the Gosford-based institution marks it's 25th year of operation. In that time, Mr Maher estimates they've provided over 750,000 overnight beds, and he's noticed some change in the type of people seeking help.

"(There's been) an increase in the number of woman and children escaping domestic violence. But all the other causes are there, whether it’s mental health issues, addictions, gambling, family breakdowns… and it crosses all strata of society, DV in particular.

Another constant has been the stigma directed at homeless people, despite the changes, something Mr Maher says is 'very much' an obstacle to alleviating the problem.

“We really have to face an issue that if you don’t own your own home, you are probably two pays - or one significant illness - apart from living reasonably comfortably in rented accommodation and homelessness.

National Homelessness week 2017 also coincides with the construction of four two-room homes on Racecourse road near Gosford Hospital, a pilot project by the Tiny Homes Foundation to test the strategy as a solution to homelessness.

The homes are set to open later this year.

Homelessness statistics:

  • There are about 105,000 people who are homeless in Australia.
  • Of this, 56% are men and 44% women.
  • Only 6% of all homeless people are sleeping rough, compared to 39% living in 'severely overcrowded dwellings' and 20% in homeless accommodation.
  • The 25-34 age group has the highest proportion of homeless (18%), while 86% of all homeless are under 54 years old.
  • In NSW, 31% of all homelessness is due to domestic violence.

Source: Homelessness Australia