Funding no salve for invisible housing crisis

Image: Homelessness NSWImage: Homelessness NSW

The additional $12 million funding announced by the NSW Government during Homelessness Week for temporary accommodation for people at risk of, or experiencing, homelessness was welcomed but may not be enough.

During Homelessness Week (August 1 to 7), Parliamentary Secretary for the Central Coast, Adam Crouch, said the NSW Government was reinforcing its commitment to prevent and respond to homelessness during the COVID-19 outbreak through its partnership with Pacific Link Housing that provides local Tier 1 community housing.

“Services and support from government agencies and non-government organisations have been ramped up in response to this latest outbreak,” Crouch said.

“We need to keep people safe while also preventing the virus from spreading any further.

“In the past few weeks there have been 45 rough sleepers on the Central Coast helped off the streets and into temporary accommodation.

“When the current COVID-19 risk subsides, we don’t want people to return to rough sleeping and that is why this funding will also transition people into secure and long-term housing with wrap-around supports.”

The NSW Government’s Together Home program was expanded in the 2021-22 NSW Budget, along with an additional $10 million to increase the availability of rent assistance packages including Rent Choice Start Safely and Rent Choice Youth.

Member for Gosford, Liesl Tesch, said Homelessness Week not only focused on those currently homeless, but also on ‘invisible homelessness’ including negative health, and economic and social impacts.

“Whilst it is great to see our local community housing provider Pacific Link gaining NSW Government funding to support rough sleepers on the Coast, the problem of homelessness lies much deeper,” Tesch said.

“Rents across NSW have skyrocketed as more people choose to work from home, local housing affordability is now a front and centre concern for many people who have been long-term residents on the Coast.

“Over the past few years, we have seen a continued increase in the cost of living, especially here on the Central Coast following COVID-19 and the rising trend to work from home.

“Many people have switched ‘city life’ to the ‘Central Coast life’ which has meant house prices continue to rise with our population.

“Combine this with the loss of jobs and income as a result of COVID, and wage stagnation and the risk of homelessness in our community increases quickly.

“The NSW Government’s failure sale of over 200 public housing assets on the Coast over the past 10 years as well as Central Coast Council’s slowed approval of Development Applications in the past 12 months has not helped matters.”

Tesch said she hears regularly from constituents who have had their lease terminated and cannot find housing within their affordable price range.

Recent studies in 2020 found the fastest growing homeless group nationally was women over the age of 45.

Tesch said this speaks to the high levels of domestic violence.

“Women fleeing unsafe and unhappy relationships I believe is one of the main causes of this fast-growing homeless demographic,” Tesch said.

“Over the period of COVID-19 domestic violence continues to be perpetrated behind closed doors and with little opportunity to leave, women often feel there is nowhere to go.

“To address invisible homelessness and the growing level of domestic violence more support is needed to ensure people feel like they have someone to turn for support.”

More information on Homelessness Week 2021 is available on Homelessness Australia’s website.

Anyone who is homeless or at risk of homelessness can call Link2home on 1800 152 152.

Staff are available 24/7 to provide information and referrals to services, including temporary accommodation.

Maisy Rae