More than a bed needed to address homelessness

More than a bed needed to address homelessness

In response to the ABS Census Homelessness data released today, Wesley Mission CEO, Rev. Dr Keith Garner, said that it’s more than just beds needed to address the increased number of people experiencing homelessness.

The latest data shows that homeless figures have grown from 104, 000 to 116,000 in five years (2011-2016), driven largely by an increase in the number of people living in severely crowded dwellings. The number of people in this category has grown by almost 10,000 to 51,000 nationally, and in NSW it has increased by 74 per cent.

“Our nation needs to adopt a housing first strategy but the answer is more than a bed.

“We are now dealing with a nationwide problem that requires not only an economic but an integrated social response across all arms and tiers of government,” said Rev Dr Garner.

Rev. Dr Keith Garner said more families are seeking shelter from providers such as Wesley Mission, with the families often fleeing from domestic violence, along with this six out of ten people experiencing homelessness are women.

“The message is clear: we need a sector wide-response that better incorporates the needs of families. The homeless demographic is diverse,” said Rev. Dr Garner.

“More families must equate to more accommodation with two, three and four bedrooms and wrap around support services to deal with issues like financial stress and mental health.”

Mission Australia CEO, James Toomey said that sustainable and housing solutions are needed and it is up to government collaboration with private and non-governmental providers to create healthy and diverse communities.

“It is of vital importance that new social and affordable homes are created within communities of opportunity, with infrastructure connected to education, training and support services,” said Mr Toomey.

Along with more flexible and inclusive service models, Rev. Dr Garner explained that providers need simpler and more accessible processes when addressing family homelessness.

“Staff in homeless services need to engage with displaced families for an extended period—before, during and after the establishment of stable accommodation.

“Assistance should include a long-term recovery plan that not only takes in quick access to stable accommodation but counselling and support,” said Rev. Dr Garner.

People who are homeless suffer trauma.

“The idea of a “tell us once” policy is important in minimising the number of times that traumatised families have to relate their experiences must be made a priority as well as the sharing of information across government and the private sector,” Dr Garner said.

“It also empowers community service staff to make the necessary links to help families recover from their crises.”

Last year Wesley Mission supported almost 4000 people experiencing homelessness.

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