When I go to sleep at night, my mind often turns with a sense of sadness and worry to the many people Mission Australia helps who are putting their own heads down in unsafe, insecure or inadequate accommodation.

Right across this country, compassionate and skilled staff at Mission Australia and other homelessness service providers work day in day out to provide support and find housing for people who reach out to us for help.

We know from our new Homelessness Impact Report that we’ve had a 26% increase in demand for our 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 are at risk. National data sources also tell us that every hour, 3,000 people in Australia seek help from homelessness services like those provided by Mission Australia

But the truth is, we don’t always have a lot to work with.

When people come to see us early – when they know that they are in trouble but before they actually lose their home – we can help almost all (94%) of them to stabilise their housing and prevent them from becoming homeless.

But when people come to see us once they are already homeless, it’s a different story. We’re only able to find a secure long-term home for about a third of people experiencing homelessness. This same situation is played out in homelessness services across the country, and it’s because there simply isn’t enough social and affordable housing for everyone who needs it.

Too often, the only housing option we can connect people with is short-term crisis and emergency accommodation – a band-aid solution at best, and still actually a form of homelessness.

Some crisis accommodation is high-quality: warm, welcoming and inviting – a safe place to stay while people wait to find a permanent home. But some isn’t fit for purpose and can be just as traumatic as sleeping rough. Think of a mother and her children escaping domestic violence being put up in a motel away from their support network and school, weighing up whether it would be better to live in their car.

But whether good or bad, emergency accommodation isn’t good enough.

All of us deserve the dignity and opportunity afforded by a safe, secure home. No one wants to see their parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, colleagues or neighbours pushed into sleeping in their car, or bunking down with three other families, or couch surfing, or chasing a couple of nights’ rest in a motel or boarding house. Everyone wants homelessness to end in Australia.

The housing crisis has become a homelessness emergency.

To end it, we need an adequately funded support system that helps people before they lose their home, and we need a heck of a lot more social and affordable housing. Close to one million properties over the next two decades, by the best estimates we have, are needed to ensure everyone has a secure and affordable home.

This is achievable, but it will take joint leadership from all levels of governments and a willingness to make long-term commitments. Every journey starts with a first step and the Government’s proposed legislation to establish a Housing Australia Future Fund is an imperfect but important first step towards ending homelessness in Australia. This is due to be debated again in October and I hope that the Parliament can work in good faith to take this opportunity to build a new beginning, together.

If Australia built enough social and affordable housing to meet need, it would help Mission Australia and other homelessness services ensure that, in time, everyone has a safe place to call home.

At Mission Australia, we won’t rest properly until this happens.


Photo of Sharon, CEO of Mission Australia.


Sharon Callister
CEO Mission Australia


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