There are urgent calls to address the high number of people who will be homeless or at risk of homelessness over the Christmas period.
A new report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) shows the number of people seeking support from Specialist Homelessness Services (SHS) has continued to grow to over 288,000 requests for help over last financial year, an increase of 3 per cent on 2015–16 figures.
Sixty-two percent of people assisted reported that they were affected by housing affordability stress, while there were also an estimated 95,390 requests for assistance that went unmet in 2016-17.
Mission Australia CEO James Toomey said that many existing services are stretched beyond capacity and urgent action is needed to ensure that services can meet demand.
“Homelessness doesn’t stop for the festive season. We know that over one hundred thousand people are homeless in Australia on any given night and there will be a distressing number of people homeless this Christmas,” he said.
“We are calling for urgent action to ensure that safe and secure housing is available for everyone who needs it."
Mr Toomey said there has been a “significant increase” in the number of older Australians seeking assistance from homelessness services, alongside working people who are unable to afford suitable housing.
“For people who receive social security payments like the age pension or Newstart, there’s not much left to survive on after paying the rent each week,” he said.
“Our frontline staff are reporting that many people are having to make tough choices – between paying the power bill or paying the rent. At this time of year, the financial pressures can be even greater, particularly for families with children."
Mr Toomey urged governments to implement a strategy to reduce the number of people being pushed into homelessness.
“We need a national action plan that addresses the drivers of homelessness including family violence, poverty and the lack of affordable housing,” he said.
“When people do become homeless, the focus should be to rapidly rehouse people and support them to maintain that housing.”