While we continue to fight the virus amidst our first recession in 29 years and steps are taken to rebuild our economy, it is commonly said in passing conversation that we’re all in the ‘same boat’.

As our Federal Government shifts the rudder to turn our country from recession to recovery, it is increasingly apparent that not all boats are fit to rise with the proverbial economic tide. For people experiencing homelessness, they aren’t in any kind of boat.

Encouragingly, the Australian Government has navigated increased unemployment and disadvantage in the midst of the pandemic by increasing income support, which has made a substantial difference to millions of Australians, including many who Mission Australia serves.

However, there remains a dire risk that the more than 116,000 people who are homeless will be left behind, especially if increased income support and other supports to house people during the pandemic are withdrawn.

Drought, bushfires, floods and now COVID-19 have cast light on the importance of having a home as a stable base to stay well, while exposing Australia’s severe shortage of social and affordable housing.

In response to COVID-19 restrictions there have been some commendable responses by State and Territory government to throw a lifeline to people who are rough sleeping, placing them in hotels and other temporary accommodation to ensure they are safe and well and to reduce the spread of the virus. But crisis accommodation is only a temporary fix.

Even before 2020, the rate of homelessness increased both in proportion and numerically between the 2011 and 2016 Census, and our recently released Youth Survey report also showed that a staggering one in six young people who responded have experienced homelessness.

As a charity that works with many who are homeless and facing disadvantage every day, we know the numbers of those who are hardest hit, who are in need of assistance and a safe home are likely to increase considerably due to the ripple effects of the pandemic.

In addition, with only 7% of people who are homeless sleeping on the streets, the large majority of people who are homeless remain hidden from public view – they could be couch surfing, living in unsafe or overcrowded accommodation, or even a makeshift dwelling such as a car.

This year’s National Homelessness Week (2-8 August) has a very timely catchcry of ‘Everybody needs a home’ and is closely aligned with the Everybody’s Home advocacy campaign. If you haven’t done so already, I encourage you to sign up to this campaign and join Mission Australia and many other organisations, groups and individuals to call for action and solutions to end homelessness.

This includes a national plan to end homelessness with a long term commitment to prevent and end homelessness in Australia and priority investment in 500,000 social and affordable homes by 2030, with at least 30,000 of those delivered in the next four years.

This would help to end homelessness and ensure everybody in Australia has a home where they can rise with the tide of economic recovery. It will also create much needed jobs in the construction industry.

Every day at Mission Australia, we provide support and assistance to many who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. We also recently launched our 2020-25 Strategy which cements our focus on helping end homelessness in Australia by not only increasing the impact of our services, but also by advocating for change.

We know that homelessness can be solved if there is unwavering commitment from all governments, community services and housing organisations, institutional investors and donations from our community.

We need to lift people facing homelessness into the boat, so that we can all catch the tide together.

When the Federal Budget 2020-21 is handed down this October, we hope to see a solid commitment to build the new social and affordable homes that Australia sorely needs.

This will help us to safely weather the storm, and chart our course towards the clearer skies of recovery together. Because we all need a safe, secure place to call home to stay well and thrive.


Photo of James Toomey, CEO of Mission Australia


James Toomey
CEO Mission Australia


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