Band-aid solutions ‘won’t end homelessness’

Homelessness will be addressed at a conference in Melbourne today (Unsplash/Warren Wong)

Throwing money at emergency accommodation and dispersing rough sleepers will do little to solve homelessness, a leading expert has warned, The Guardian reports.

Irish homelessness expert Eoin O’Sullivan will today give the keynote address to Victoria’s homelessness conference. Mr O’Sullivan will warn governments against concentrating their resources in crisis accommodation, such as shelters or hostels.

Instead, he says, governments would save money and improve effectiveness by boosting permanent housing options through adding to social and community housing stocks.

He is an advocate of the “housing first” model, which gives fast access to permanent housing, before deploying support and mental health services to ensure people are able to remain in accommodation.

In the housing first model, people do not need to earn a right to housing by proving they are capable of managing their own lives.

“I think a lot of people find it difficult to make that conceptual leap,” Mr O’Sullivan told The Guardian.

“I was walking in Melbourne last night and [many rough sleepers] appear quite dishevelled and people assume ‘you couldn’t give them a house’, but in practice you can,” he said.

He said once people were in permanent housing, many social or health problems associated with homelessness tend to dissipate.

In Australia, growth in social housing stock stagnated and numbers on waiting lists have increased between 2009 and 2016.

The failure was one of several that caused the federal government to announce it would develop a new homelessness and housing agreement with the states.

The number of homeless Australians in crisis accommodation, meanwhile, has increased significantly. Those in crisis accommodation who reported accessing homelessness services grew from 7,871 in 2012-13 to 14,569 in 2015-16.

The Council to Homeless Persons chief executive, Jenny Smith, said Australian governments must commit to boosting the social housing stock.

“With our federal government brokering a new national homelessness and housing agreement with the states, as a nation we need to commit to significant increases in social housing for low-income earners so we can emulate the success from abroad, not continue with failure,” Ms Smith said.


Crisis measures won't solve homelessness, Australian governments warned (The Guardian)

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