Mission Australia is again calling on the government to commit to halving homelessness by 2025 following the release of a new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) which showed the number of Specialist Homelessness Services (SHS) clients accessing services is at an all-time high.

The report, Specialist homelessness services 2015–16 showed 279,196 Australians were supported by specialist homelessness services, showing an increase up from nearly 256,000 in 2014–15. These numbers have steadily increased since the first report launch in 2011.The unmet requests for assistance in 2015-16 reached 100,302 – a decrease of 16 per cent from the previous year. Seventy per cent of these requests included a need for some type of accommodation support. Long-term housing options were provided to just 5% (or 5,000) of the 96,000 (34%) SHS clients needing this service.

Mission Australia CEO Catherine Yeomans said the statistics are unsurprising and called for urgent action on the issue.

“Our staff and many others working in homelessness services are feeling the stretch, with more and more people reaching out for support. This report just reinforces what we are already seeing on the frontline.

“Without more affordable housing, a commitment to targets and a long-term plan and funding to achieve them, the number of people who are homeless will climb, year after year. We need commitment to targets and a long-term plan and funding to achieve them to ensure that we are reducing homelessness,” said Ms Yeomans.

Ms Yeomans said stronger Government leadership is needed to help reduce the numbers of people experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

“This issue needs strong leadership from the Federal Government. The housing market macro policy settings and funding levers rest largely with them. We are pleased the Coalition Government last week acknowledged the urgent need for action to tackle the supply of affordable housing and the growing number of people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

“We welcome their recent NPAH announcement that ensures many essential homelessness services won't have to shut their doors on 1 July 2017. However, we are disappointed the funding does not extend beyond one year. Once again, this leaves the sector with uncertainty and the inability to plan for the long term.

“As well, we can’t fix homelessness without homes. Affordable housing is a central piece of our national economic infrastructure. Increased supply of more housing for people on low and moderate incomes is a necessity, both for the lives of those individuals, families and children at risk of homelessness, and for the economic growth of Australia. There is an ever growing chasm of inequality as more people are pushed into sub-standard housing paying extreme percentages of their income towards their rent, struggling to make ends meet.

"We look forward to working with the Government on the next stage of reform. We hope that future agreements on affordable housing and homelessness funding provide a real prospect for change over the long-term,” said Ms Yeomans.

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