St Vincent de Paul Society national CEO Toby O’Connor has welcomed the Morrison Government’s focus on emergency accommodation for a growing number of Australians, but warned a further joint response was required to address the need.
Mr O’Connor said housing options for low income people are seriously limited and the solution requires the cooperation of not-for-profit providers, private developers and governments – federal and state and territory.
He was responding to comments by the Assistant Minister for Community Housing and Homelessness, Luke Howarth, yesterday, in which he told ABC Radio National that he wanted to "put a positive spin" on the homelessness situation which he said affected only a small number of Australians, and that his priority was emergency accommodation.
Mr O'Connor said emergency accommodation will hopefully capture people when they are beginning to fall, but stronger pathways needed to get people out of crisis circumstances and into secure, long-term, affordable housing requires a massive increase in community and public housing stock.
“The society’s first-hand experience with assisting homeless people across Australia demonstrates that those options simply do not exist at the moment,” Mr O’Connor said.
“While people sleeping rough are most visible, we cannot ignore the tens and thousands of people experiencing other forms of homelessness, including people who are couch-surfing, living in over-crowded dwellings, or living in other forms of unsafe and insecure housing.
“There might be empty dwellings in our capital cities, but whether they’re full or not will really have very little impact on the folk we’re talking about who are at the very bottom end when it comes to housing affordability.”
Mr O’Connor said people on Newstart cannot afford the rents in our big cities.
“We know from the Anglicare Australia 2019 rental affordability survey that only one out of 70,000 rental listings was affordable to people living on Newstart,” he said.
“I congratulate the government on making this issue a priority and I invite (Mr Howarth) to visit housing projects launched recently by the St Vincent de Paul Society in a number of states."
Mr O’Connor said he has written to (Mr Howarth) seeking a meeting in the weeks ahead to discuss how the St Vincent de Paul Society can assist to develop new approaches to a complex problem.
Homelessness needs a joint response (St Vincent de Paul Media Release)