Governments accused of having abandoned the homeless

Emma McBride with Rachel Willis at the Coast Shelter Homelessness Week memorial serviceEmma McBride with Rachel Willis at the Coast Shelter Homelessness Week memorial service

Federal and NSW Liberal Governments have abandoned the homeless and the services that help them, according to Member for Dobell, Emma McBride.

Today (August 7), I attended Coast Shelters homelessness memorial service to commemorate Homelessness Week (August 4-10), McBride said. I will also be wearing Shoebox Revolution socks to support the local charity started by two sisters to make life a little more comfortable for those sleeping rough. But it should not be left to charities and not-for-profits to solve our escalating homelessness crisis, she said.

State and Federal Governments have failed to recognise the extent of demand for crisis accommodation and have not resourced service delivery. This Federal Government defunded the National Rental Affordability Scheme in 2014, cut $44M from homelessness funding, defunded Homelessness Australia and abolished the National Housing Supply Council, she said.

CEO of Coast Shelter, Rachel Willis, said: We know only too well that people experiencing homelessness often die prematurely and avoidably.

The memorial service is a solemn occasion where we will look to bring the relationship between homelessness and death to the centre of our attention, Willis said. A focus on increasing housing supply and affordability, providing access to health services and supports, and seriously looking at New Start allowances to address the great poverty divide, is what we are calling for, she said. McBride said the NSW Government has failed to ensure service providers like Coast Shelter can pay their staff in line with award conditions.

Funding to cover staff salaries has only increased by 1.75 per cent for this financial year so money to pay staff has to come from the organisation. If providers aren’t carrying enough cash, they have to reduce staff numbers and support fewer people. Investing in crisis accommodation is good for communities and for government.

Melbourne University research found that every $1 invested in crisis accommodation returns savings of $2.70 across the health, justice and social security sectors. There is no justification, either social or economic, for governments failure to fund this sector. People are passing away unable to access safe, affordable housing, medical services and unable to get help with drug and alcohol addictions and mental health issues, she said. Willis added that: It is with a very heavy heart that Coast Shelter will provide its one millionth bed night of accommodation this financial year, the need is getting worse and there are not enough resources to allow us to help everyone. Our most recent figures show that we are only able to accommodate one person from every five that seeks crisis accommodation.

Source: Media release, Aug 7 Jackie Pearson, Office of Emma McBride MP