8 August 2017

The St Vincent de Paul Society is marking Homelessness Week (August 7-13) by calling for greater investment in social housing as part of a comprehensive national strategy to halt the rising rates of homelessness, especially among young people and older women.

“It is shameful that in 2017 a lack of affordable housing continues to exclude people from the basic human right to shelter and safety. It is essential the Government invests in social housing, and not leave it to the market to resolve the lack of housing options for people on low incomes,” the Society’s National Council CEO Dr John Falzon said.

"You don't reduce inequality by turning your back on people who are pushed into homelessness. You don't reduce homelessness by undermining income security and blaming people for being locked out."

The call comes on the back of a new analysis of Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) data by Homelessness Australia that has shown a significant increase in the numbers of young people and older women experiencing homelessness. Women and children escaping family violence is still the biggest driver of homelessness in the country.

“It is painfully clear the rate of homelessness in Australia is rising with a nine per cent increase in the number of people seeking help from homelessness agencies over the 2015-16 financial year compared to the previous year. There are 200,000 people on the waiting list for social housing and at the same time Australia has a shortfall of housing supply, estimated at over 500,000 rental dwellings, which are both affordable and available to the lowest income households,” Dr Falzon said.

“For too long people experiencing homelessness and poverty have been blamed for their situation, looked down upon and driven to the margins of society, but thankfully public discourse in Australia is now starting to acknowledge the structural issues, such as housing affordability and the lack of social housing, that are the root causes of homelessness.

The St Vincent de Paul Society believes if Australia is to meet the target of halving homelessness by 2025 it will require national action and political commitment to implement a comprehensive national strategy comprising:

  • Secure and sufficient funding for specialist homelessness services should be part of a renewed plan to halve homelessness by 2025 – a plan that addresses the drivers of homelessness, rapidly rehouses people who are homeless, and provides adequate and flexible support for those needing to sustain housing.
  • Greater investment in public and social housing is needed to make sure people are not threatened with the likelihood of homelessness.

In our Ache for Home report, the St Vincent de Paul Society urged the Federal Government to establish a national plan for housing that includes a $10 billion Social and Affordable Housing Fund and for Commonwealth Rent Assistance to be increased and indexed properly, among many other practical recommendations.

Homelessness statistics

The St Vincent de Paul Society acknowledges the difficulty in measuring and defining the rates of homelessness in our community when homelessness takes many forms, such as couch surfing and living in insecure and inadequate accommodation. However, at the time of writing we believe the latest AIHW data is reflective of the needs and concerns of specialist homelessness services. The Society sees this as a more accurate representation of the problem in 2017 in comparison to the 2011 Census statistics that showed 105,000 people were homeless. We expect to see the high rates of homelessness also reflected in the 2016 Census data when it is released, but in our opinion one homeless person is one too many, especially in a prosperous country such as Australia.

Read more about the St Vincent de Paul Society's support for Homelessness Week 2017.

MEDIA CONTACT:  Donna Scheerlinck 0400 845 492 or media@svdp.org.au