The Way We Think About Homelessness Needs To Change Before The Election

One-third of Federal funding could soon be cut if commitments aren't made.

24/05/2016 8:37 AM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:53 PM AEST
Australians facing homelessness aren't always who you'd expect.

Homelessness services are urging politicians to make a funding commitment to an issue leaving one in 200 Australians without a home. And this one in 200 may not be the person you'd expect.

Chair of Homelessness Australia Jenny Smith said the "stereotypical" man on the street with an alcohol or drug addiction makes up only six percent of homeless people around the country.

The biggest driver of homelessness is family violence with women and children suffering the most along with young people coming out of state care. Half end up homeless in the first two years, said Smith.

"None of us would let our kids leave home at 16, 17, or 18-years-old and withdraw our family support. We wouldn't expect them to survive in the current climate and that's what we currently do as a community," Smith told The Huffington Post Australia.

"We do see families sleeping rough, but predominantly they're much more hidden and harder to see, but they are the biggest number of homeless people in our community."

On Tuesday Homelessness Australia -- in partnership with ACOSS, National Shelter and CHIA -- launched a call to action, urging the community to speak up to make homelessnessness an election issue.

The last time a prime ministerial candidate campaigned on the issue was Kevin Rudd in 2007. Following the election, the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness (NPAH) was introduced by the Rudd government which currently delivers $115 million each year to services. It makes up approximately one-third of the nationwide funding, said Smith.

However this funding is not promised beyond June 2017, and both the Coalition and Labor remain silent on the issue.

The services -- which Smith said are already stretched -- want a commitment to maintain the current funding under the NPAH and additional funding of $750 million in the first year to deliver an effective affordable housing scheme. At the moment, they are only delivering short term solutions which barely make a dent on the nationwide issue.

"Shelters are hard to make great places; the real solution is to secure ongoing housing as quickly as possible. If you can't access housing for people, then people just go around a vicious cycle of temporary non-solutions," Smith told HuffPost Australia.

"We're not going to end homelessness without an affordable housing strategy and a plan that commits more to early intervention and prevention."

An affordable housing strategy would not only deliver a roof over heads, said Smith. For the woman leaving a violent partner or a young person trying to create a better life for themselves, it's a chance to get ahead again.

"It's one thing to escape family violence, it's another to be completely ruptured from your social networks, your family, your friends, and have your kids ripped out of school," Smith said.

"People will always be homeless but it will only need to be very short, and a once-off experience rather than the ongoing drawn out agony that it currently is for so many people."

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