Jenny Leong MP on protocol for homeless people in public places

As a member of the committee conducting the inquiry into the protocol for homeless people in public places, Jenny Leong MP, Member for Newtown has commented on the report as it was delivered.



ort of the inquiry into the protocol for homeless people in public places. While the primary purpose of this inquiry was to examine the protocol, given the intersection between the protocol and the broader homelessness crisis this State is facing as well as the inquiry coinciding with the global pandemic—which has seen significant shifts in how the Government works with organisations and services to respond to community needs, homelessness and sleeping rough—the insights offered by those who made submissions to this inquiry, the experiences and advice shared by witnesses and the report itself provide a timely snapshot on the issue of homelessness and the ways in which homelessness can be prevented and ended.

I urge the Government to take on board and act on the recommendations in the report. I am pleased to say that during the deliberative meeting to consider the draft report I was able to make a significant contribution to amending those recommendations. I acknowledge the recognition of my contribution as a member of Parliament who represents an electorate with a high number of homeless people, as opposed to members playing party political games over amendments. I was grateful that some of those amendments were incorporated in the report. One of the crucial recommendations was that a clear review process, implementation plan and accountability mechanisms be established around the protocol to ensure that all signatory agencies are delivering on their responsibilities. The member for Albury talked about the importance of that review. Another recommendation related to expanding the specific communities to be considered in relation to the protocol to include young people, LGBTIQ+ people and non-citizens. That issue needs more focus, more work and more attention by the Government, particularly beyond this pandemic.

With regard to young people, the committee acknowledged the importance of child protection provisions as a crucial element. The recommendations also include broadening and encouraging more agencies and councils to become signatories and the importance of the provision of training and support, making sure a Housing First approach is referred to in the protocol, and considering the benefits of Public Space Liaison Officers [PSLO] and funding those positions by Government. It seems that the creation of jobs in New South Wales is high on the agenda at the moment. Funding for local councils to establish PSLOs in areas where there are a high number of rough sleepers would be a wonderful contribution to the community and also a way to create local jobs.

I also acknowledge the need for the protocol to be accessible by having person-centred language, being trauma informed and ensuring that those who are unable to speak or read English are able to engage with the services and supports. When we joined with the assertive outreach team—I give credit to those individuals—we came across someone who did not speak English. A card was handed to them, written only in English, explaining how to engage with services. Obviously that card was of no use to them. acknowledge that Paul Vevers, the Deputy Secretary, New South Wales Department of Communities and Justice, immediately took that on board and recognised that as a problematic approach. [Extension of time]

I want to ensure that there is an annual review of the protocol, as the member for Albury said. Homelessness is not inevitable. No-one should be denied a safe, secure and habitable place to live. The Together Home model recognises the need for government support to house people and put housing first, as well as offer wraparound services. I hope this model continues to be funded and expanded so that we can put an end to homelessness in this State. It is not an incurable problem and we have the solutions.

Finally, I thank all the homelessness experts, advocates and community service members who made contributions to the committee's inquiry, including Homelessness NSW, local councils, and services and community organisations. I urge the Minister and the Government to do all they can to take on board the recommendations of this report, and to hear the stories of those with lived experiences of homelessness, the experts and the people who have the solutions so that we can end homelessness together in New South Wales. I thank the committee staff for their contribution and attention to detail in supporting the work of the inquiry. I also thank my parliamentary colleagues on the committee for working in a collaborative way.

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