Jenny Leong MP on Homelessness Week

Greens Member for Newtown, Jenny Leong has called for a drastic investment in public, social and affordable housing to address the homelessness crisis is NSW.


Ms JENNY LEONG (Newtown) (19:20:42): This year the theme for Homelessness Week is "Everybody Needs a Home". At a time when health advice has focused on encouraging people to stay home to stay safe, it is crucial to ensure that everybody has a home. So often we hear statistics and numbers that demonstrate the size and scale of the challenges faced when it comes to addressing homelessness in this State and across the country. The best way to help end homelessness is to provide more social housing and wraparound supports for people who need a home. The coordinated response to rough sleepers in the city during the State's initial lockdown demonstrated that we can reduce homelessness significantly when we work together, resource appropriately and empower services to do the work they need to do to put people in safe places to sleep.

It is feasible for us to end long-term homelessness in the State if we resource it properly. Homelessness is more than just people sleeping rough. Massive investment in public and social housing is needed to create clear pathways to community, social or public housing for people who are sleeping rough, who are provided with temporary accommodation, or who find themselves fleeing domestic or family violence situations into temporary accommodation. As a result of the pandemic, the loss of work and income—and the impact on people's ability to pay rent or meet their mortgage repayments—will mean more and more people need a place to call home and assistance with maintaining the homes they are in.

Homelessness NSW CEO Katherine McKernan has said that homelessness services turn more people away from crisis accommodation than they are able to help. She has said that medical issues and a lack of affordable housing contribute to those problems. On a Tuesday night during Homelessness Week the Newtown Neighbourhood Centre, right in the heart of Newtown, usually has a sleep-out to raise much-needed funds for their incredible Newtopian work. The work is run by volunteers, who are trained by professionals. It enables outreach programs to run locally in our community and in other communities, connecting people who are sleeping rough on the street with the services and support that they need. I commend those volunteers and all of the people who have contributed to this important program.

The homelessness pandemic that we face in this State, which we faced before the current health pandemic, is not one that treats people equally. A huge percentage of the clients of homelessness services—in fact 30 per cent—are Aboriginal people. There are less than 10 Aboriginal community controlled homelessness organisations. We need investment in Aboriginal controlled and Aboriginal specialised housing, and funding for Aboriginal support services. We also need to recognise that despite the many challenges that young people face, insecure housing does not affect only young people in our State. There are many older women who face the risk of homelessness. In New South Wales homelessness is increasing more for older single women than for any other cohort. We need safe and affordable housing options for them, too.

During the crisis many temporary visa holders and non‑citizens have been hit in multiple ways. We may all be in this together, but clearly the pandemic impacts some much harder than others. People on temporary visas and in insecure work situations, who are unable to access any government payments or supports, are particularly hard done by and doing it particularly tough. A briefing paper recently provided by Domestic Violence NSW highlights the plight of people on temporary visas experiencing domestic and family violence and their children. It states:

Perpetrators of violence against people on temporary visas use these barriers to maintain power and control and to continue to use violence against them. Due to the high risk of homelessness and poverty, a person on a temporary visa may make the difficult decision to stay with, or return to, a violent partner.

The paper includes clear recommendations to the New South Wales Government. I urge the Government to ensure that access to temporary and crisis accommodation and social and public housing is extended to all people who need it in our State during this crisis.

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