Tuesday’s front page of the Daily Telegraph put in stark relief the challenges we face with homelessness in Sydney.

As a provider of outreach support services via our Missionbeat service we too have been concerned with the increasing numbers of people pitching tents and sleeping rough in Belmore Park.

There are many reasons why homeless people congregate in areas like this. Sleeping rough can be dangerous, so people naturally think they will have a bit more protection and safety sleeping near a group of other people, rather than sleeping rough on their own. You’ve also got a lot of support services seeing that Belmore Park is a ‘hub’ – so they’ll come down and offer their services – things like food vans, distribution of blankets and bedding.

However, as the article points out, a group of vulnerable people grouped together has also had implications for public safety. No one thinks security guards are an answer to homelessness. This is obviously a stop-gap measure designed purely to ensure people’s safety in the park.

Homelessness and roughsleeping, however, is a far greater issue, and it does need to be addressed.

There are a number of reasons that people can find themselves homeless, and the issues are complex – trauma, drug and alcohol addiction , mental illness, domestic and family violence, gambling addiction, relationship breakdown, financial distress and housing affordability – usually it’s a combination of these.

We work together with a range of other services to assist people out of homelessness, and we know that people who are roughsleeping need support to address these complex causes of homelessness. Ultimately, what is required is funding for homelessness support services.

We know what works to solve homelessness. Our Missionbeat Outreach service, for example, supports roughsleepers intensively over a long period of time to secure permanent housing. We have a mobile office that goes out to homelessness hotspots like Belmore Park, and seeks high level engagement from clients to address their barriers to accessing housing. In 2015 this service assisted 40 people who were sleeping rough in the inner city including people in Belmore Park into housing. This is a huge achievement considering the complex barriers our clients face to getting into housing, many of whom have spent years and even decades on the street.

But if we really want to end homelessness we need more social and affordable housing. It’s no news to anyone that Sydney has a housing affordability crisis – and sadly this means that vulnerable people and people on low incomes are more likely to be pushed into homelessness.

We have called on all governments, the community sector, corporations and individuals to work together to address affordable housing.

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