Homeless experts predict winter housing crisis

The number of people sleeping rough is expected to rise this winter as two of the main ‘street-to-home’ housing initiatives reach capacity.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore called on all levels of government to provide funding for more accommodation.

“Of our two main housing sources, Common Ground is now fully tenanted and Platform-70 is almost fully subscribed, so there’s a real risk that unless new opportunities open up, we’ll see all the progress in reducing homelessness numbers lost, and numbers start to rise again,” the Lord Mayor said.

“The City is doing all it can to support the supply of new affordable housing stock, but we need a commitment from the state and federal governments to ensure everyone has access to a safe and affordable place to live.”

The Lord Mayor also urged both governments to resolve the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness and make a substantial and long-term funding commitment to programs demonstrating strong results in the inner city and elsewhere.

Preliminary figures from yesterday morning’s annual summer street count found there were 269 people sleeping rough in the city’s streets, parks and public areas between 1am-3am, a decrease from the 310 people counted in February last year.

However, that downward trend will not continue unless action is taken now to meet demand.

The City has a target to ensure 15 per cent of all homes in the local government area are classified as affordable or social housing by 2030.

The City’s Affordable Rental Housing Strategy will help provide 3,000 affordable new homes, through planning tools, financial initiatives, strategic partnerships, community development, advocacy and leadership.

At least 900 new affordable housing units have been built or are being built as a result of this strategy, including:

  • Fifty as part of the Harold Park redevelopment;
  • One hundred at Green Square on the former South Sydney Hospital site;
  • Over 100 as part of the Common Ground development at Camperdown;
  • Seven at the Property Industry Foundation House in Redfern; and
  • Around 550 under the City’s affordable housing levy scheme which applies to developments in Ultimo, Pyrmont and Green Square.

The twice-yearly street count is conducted by some 160 volunteers, 20 City staff and 30 peer advisers-  people who have lived experienced of homelessness.

The street count aims to track changes in the numbers or people sleeping rough as a way of monitoring the success of inner-city homelessness initiatives, including the City’s own programs.

It’s also used to advocate the NSW and Federal governments for the necessary resources to ensure that every person experiencing homelessness is able to access a home of their own with support if they need it.

Liz Giles, Manager of the City’s Homelessness Unit, said this was the City’s tenth street count and the data gathered over the past five years had been an important factor in determining how to direct resources and prioritise programs.

“To have 182 people housed is real testimony to the hard work of the organisations and individuals that are dedicated to the issue,” Ms Giles said.

“But we are facing a real shortage in affordable and accessible housing and if there is no increase in this type of housing stock, we are going to see levels of street homelessness return to February 2010 levels.”

The City is the only council in Australia with a dedicated homelessness unit and also operates the Homeless Persons Information Centre (HPIC), which provides a lifeline to about 160 people each day in desperate need of emergency accommodation.

The HPIC toll-free telephone information and referral service was established in 1984, and operates from 9am-10pm every day.

Last financial year, HPIC received 58,664 calls for assistance. Of those callers, 45,448 related to people who had nowhere to sleep that night and were seeking help to find accommodation.

Most of the calls – 36,879 – came from single people, but 6,192 came from single parents with children.

City of Sydney street count statistics:

August 2008

February 2009

August 2009

February 2010

August 2010

February 2011

August 2011

February 2012

August 2012

February 2013

Rough Sleepers

354

340

399

418

289

363

307

310

246

269*

*Preliminary figure only.

 

For more information visit: cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/community/community-support/homelessness

For media enquiries or images, contact City of Sydney Senior Media Adviser Jodie Minus phone 0467 803 815 or email jminus@cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au

For interviews with Lord Mayor Clover Moore, contact Matt Levinson on 0427 044 768 or email mlevinson@cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au

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