More than 100,000 Australians now on the homeless list

THE number of homeless people in Australia rose about 17% in the past five years, data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed on Monday.

The 2011 Census data also showed the number of homeless people in Queensland was fairly steady between 2001 and last year, while homelessness grew in New South Wales.

Among those counted as homeless were people sleeping in tents or other "improvised dwellings" with other households, supported accommodation, temporary lodging and severely crowded dwellings.

Of the more than 105,000 people who were homeless, Queensland had 19,838 and NSW recorded 28,190 on Census night in August last year.

In both states, men outnumbered women, at 57% of all homeless people in Queensland and 60% of homeless people in NSW.

While the official homeless rate rose by 8% in the five years to 2011, the actual number of people who were homeless rose 17% in those five years, due in part to population growth.

Nationally, most of the rise in homelessness resulted from the rise in the number of people living in severely crowded dwellings, up from 31,531 in 2006 to 41,390 in 2011.

Interestingly, about three-quarters of the increase in the overall homelessness estimate to 2011 was accounted for by people who were born overseas.

Despite a promise from then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to halve the number by 2020, Homelessness Australia chairwoman Narelle Clay said the data showed a rise in the problem around the country.

"We had expected to see a decline in homelessness numbers given the significant new investment in homelessness programs and services and social housing over the past four years," she said.

"The new figures demonstrate that urgent action is needed to ensure we deliver the right housing and support services to people to ensure that we can continue to reduce homelessness over time.

"This includes addressing structural drivers like poverty, labour market exclusion, domestic and family violence and the high number of exits into homelessness from corrections, mental health settings and state care."

Homelessness Australia has been advocating for changes on affordable housing, including creating early intervention programs for high risk groups like indigenous Australians, those with mental health issues and low-income families to ensure the 2020 target set by Mr Rudd was "achievable".

A new National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness, which includes specific grants to tackle the issue, was due to be renegotiated next June.

HA's proposals:

  • An affordable housing growth fund should be built into the next National Affordable Housing Agreement to deliver at least 20,000 new affordable homes each year.
  • Changes to the operational subsidy for public housing, to be funded per dwelling, rather than per capita.
  • At least $1.2 billion should be directed to the new National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness.
  • More funding certainty for early intervention programs that have been proven to work.
  • A $50 a week increase to the non-pension allowance payments.
  • The National Rental Affordability Scheme should be extended for a five years to 2021..

Topics:  australia homeless new south wales queensland

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