Homelessness Kick-Start

Homelessness Kick-Start

I welcome the government’s commitment to cut rough sleeping across NSW by half by 2025 and kick-start action on homelessness. NSW and the City of Sydney join other major cities in the Institute of Global Homelessness’s ‘A Place to Call Home’ initiative. While this is an exciting response to my calls to address the homelessness crisis, we need 5,000 extra social housing homes every year until 2026 to fix it, along with transitional housing to help people with complex needs get back on their feet.

Last night, I again joined volunteers for the City of Sydney Street Count. It’s heartbreaking to see so many people sleeping rough in such a wealthy city.

I’m committed to ending homelessness in Sydney and detailed my commitment in this opinion piece in the Sydney Morning Herald: HERE. Support the Everybody’s Home campaign to address the homelessness crisis: HERE



Every MP should be ashamed. I know I am

By Alex Greenwich, published in Sydney Morning Herald, 14 February 2019, 4.00pm

Homelessness has reached crisis point in NSW and the fault lies with all members of the state's Parliament, me included. We have failed to prioritise the needs and safety of the 38,000 people who are homeless in NSW, and as a result homelessness has increased at twice the national rate since 2011.

The Premier’s announcement this week of bold targets to halve street homelessness by 2025 will kickstart urgent action, but we also need bold plans and systemic change.

Over the past few years, we have seen confronting images of people sleeping rough in inner city hotspots, from the Martin Place tent city to the Queen Victoria Building. We've heard calls to dismantle these camps and move them on.

But the people of NSW have a right to ask how so many people can fall through the cracks in the country’s largest economy and global city. The reason people are homeless is simple: NSW does not have enough safe and affordable homes for them. There are 60,000 families on the public housing waiting list, less than 1 per cent of private rentals are affordable for people on low incomes, and NSW has the lowest rate of affordable housing sold or built in Australia.

There are an estimated 8200 sleeping rough in NSW, but you won’t see the vast majority of the other 30,000 people who are homeless across the state. These are young people trading sex for shelter, women and children escaping domestic violence sleeping on friends’ couches or in cars, people with disability living among cockroaches in rundown boarding houses, and people with severe chronic mental illness doing the rounds of hospital beds, the streets, jail and back again.

This is NSW in 2019, and every member of our Parliament should be ashamed. I know I am.

There has been a stark disconnect between the Parliament and homelessness policy, with ministers discussing move-on powers to reduce “confronting” scenes and claiming that some people want to be homeless. Our workplace is only metres away from elderly and vulnerable people sleeping in the plant beds between the Parliament and the State Library.

It’s time we end the band-aid fixes and commit to ending homelessness in NSW. We currently spend $20 million-plus a year on temporary accommodation, which only moves rough sleepers out of sight for a few nights. That money would be better invested in supported transitional housing, so people with complex needs can get back on their feet and into a permanent home, rather than just back on the street.

The Premier recently joined me at Lou’s Place in Potts Point, a day refuge for women experiencing homelessness. We heard a good news story, with a sad twist. A woman escaping violence, with complex mental health needs and substance issues, is on the road to recovery having got the counselling and support she needed. The twist was this only happened in jail, where she ended up due to an incident related to her being homeless. You should not have to go to jail to get the help you need.

While the government has built some new social housing, this has been done by selling off much-needed inner city social housing near jobs and services. When you closely assess the figures, the number of homes built barely matches the number lost. Only 1 per cent of new homes built over the decade to 2016 were social housing.

There is almost universal agreement about the need for more social housing. The Sydney Business Chamber and the Property Council have joined Homelessness NSW in calling for at least 5000 extra social housing homes every year until 2026, just to meet the current need.

The March election provides the opportunity for all MPs and candidates to show they are prepared to represent all their constituents, including those not on the electoral roll because they have no home. Anyone can become homeless. All it takes is a run of bad luck. That's why we need a strong housing safety net.

Let's work together to celebrate and protect our great city!