Homelessness Week: Let’s rip off the Band-Aid and end homelessness for good
August 7 to 13 is National Homelessness Week, when charities like Mission Australia, NGOs, government, businesses, community groups, and individuals unite with a common purpose to highlight the problem of homelessness and the solutions to it.
It’s no secret that Australia’s housing and homelessness crisis has escalated to an emergency, and there rightly has been a focus on homelessness in particular this year. The theme of Homelessness Week, "It's time to end homelessness," reminds us that by working together, we can end homelessness.
Homelessness is not an intractable problem; we can solve it with a focus on the right of every person to a safe and stable home.
Since starting my journey at Mission Australia, I have met many people, families and communities struggling to meet their basic human needs, including housing.
I have heard heartbreaking stories. A single mother sought assistance from our frontline workers after she had no other option but to sleep in her car when money for motel stays ran out, and then had to pull her two daughters out of school and couch surf interstate with family.
The circumstances this mother found herself in were through no fault of hers, and as a mother myself, I can only imagine the anguish she felt with her children not having a safe and stable home.
The impacts of family homelessness can be profound, especially for children and young people’s wellbeing and development which can persist well into adulthood.
This is reality for hundreds of thousands of people nationwide. The 2021 census found that 122,494 were without a safe and stable home which was a five percent increase since 2016, but that’s only on one night and likely an underestimate. Many more than that each year become homeless.
Australia is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, and this inequality in access to the basic human need for housing is unacceptable.
For some people, homelessness results from challenges like domestic and family violence, mental health concerns or natural disasters. Other economic and social conditions also have a major influence such as the extreme shortage of social and affordable housing and rising living and rental costs.
These days, so many people can't just get a job or save up enough money for a house deposit; many of the people who come to us for help are working, and owning a home is now out of reach for many who are working and Australia’s young people.
Without drastic action the situation is only getting worse.
Our recent Homelessness and Stable Housing Impact Report shows a 26% increase in demand for Mission Australia’s homelessness services over the past three years, and a 50% increase in people who are seeking help after they’ve become homeless rather than when they’re at risk.
Our frontline staff are seeing an influx of people seeking help from our homelessness services, and they’re telling us the housing situation is the worst they’ve ever seen it. Australia needs to be doing so much more to be on the front foot to prevent and end homelessness in our country, instead of Band-Aid crisis solutions.
Mission Australia continues to call for the drivers of homelessness - including family violence, poverty, and the lack of affordable housing - to be addressed.
We want to see the construction of almost one million new social and affordable homes within the next 20 years to fulfil the unmet need and stop more people and families from being forced into homelessness.
This will not only make sure that people have a safe and affordable home, but also that people who do become homeless can be rapidly rehoused and supported to stay safe, well and connected within their communities.
If you feel as passionate as we do about ending homelessness, I encourage you to sign up to the Everybody’s Home advocacy campaign, or Queenslanders can also join the Town of Nowhere campaign. You’ll be joining Mission Australia and many other organisations, groups and individuals to call for action to end homelessness.
Another way you can help, is by lacing up your sneakers and committing to 122,000 steps during National Homelessness Week this August to fundraise for Mission Australia and help fund crucial homelessness support services. Let’s stand (and walk or run) together with Australians in need. As a keen runner, I can’t wait to complete my Steps for Safe Homes.
Homelessness is not inevitable, it is solvable. We can end homelessness if there is action, plans and commitment across sectors from all governments, community services and housing organisations, institutional investors, business, academia and donations from our community.
Let's use this Homelessness Week as a reminder that it’s time to stop Band-Aid solutions and together act on real solutions to end homelessness in Australia for good.
CEO Mission Australia
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