New Homeless Report is another Wake Up on Housing Crises

22 Feb 2024

By The Record

St Vincent De Paul Society National President Mark Gaetani said the latest count of homeless persons in Australia was 122,000. Photo: Adobe.

The Australian Government’s newly released report on people accessing specialist homelessness services (SHS) paints a deeply disturbing picture of the nation’s housing crisis.

The Australian Institute for Health and Welfare (AIHW) data shows new clients in 2022-23 were more likely to be homeless at the start of accessing support than new clients four years earlier, and less likely to be housed at the end.

St Vincent De Paul Society National President Mark Gaetani said the annual report by the AIHW is further confirmation that the country’s homelessness situation is exceedingly bleak and shows few if any signs of improving.

“The latest count of homeless persons was 122,000 but our experience tells us the actual number is likely to be much higher,” Mr Gaetani said.

“This detailed study highlights the urgent need for measures to address the shortfall in social housing and to boost the availability of homelessness services, including crisis accommodation,” he said.

“The responsibility to address the shortfalls in the housing market rests with the government, as charities are only able to encourage action, not initiate it.  More social and affordable housing supply is a priority right now and will remain so over the next five to ten years.

The Australian Government’s newly released report on people accessing specialist homelessness services (SHS) paints a deeply disturbing picture of the nation’s housing crisis. Photo: Adobe.

Mr Gaetani continued by saying that regarding immediate assistance to people in need, our members are seeing demands for emergency relief skyrocketing.

“Many people now seeking help are in the workforce, not just relying on government support.

“The AIHW said financial difficulties are the most common reason for seeking assistance, with housing affordability stress a major factor. Some 35 per cent of new adult SHS clients reported family and domestic violence, with 31 per cent having a current mental health issue.

Despite these needs, emphasised Mr Gaetani, many agencies, including St Vincent de Paul Society, are finding themselves unable to meet requests for accommodation because there is nothing available at the time.

“In the Society’s 2024 Pre-Budget submission to the government we described the challenges being faced by more than 3.3 million Australians living in poverty, one-in-six of them children. Our calls include an increase in Australian Government funding to address the cost of living and housing crises.

“Many families are struggling to get by, especially sole parents, people on low incomes and those experiencing disability. However, the AIHW noted that lone persons were common among new SHS adult clients seeking help. Of all these new clients, 24 per cent identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander in 2022–23, vastly disproportionate to the ratio in the general population.’

Mr Gaetani said the rising cost of both the rental and real estate markets is a significant driver of poverty and homelessness in Australia.

“As the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights says, housing is the basis of stability and security for an individual or family. It is a right not a commodity. A moral investment in housing should not be to encourage property speculation or tax minimising but to provide safe and affordable homes for everyone in the community.

“There is no reason this cannot be achieved in a wealthy country such as ours. It just requires the will to bring about a fairer Australia for all Australians, whatever their life circumstances. We urge our political leaders to take heed of the sobering information contained in the AIHW’s important report.’

The St Vincent de Paul Society in Australia consists of 45,000 members and volunteers who operate on the ground through over 1,000 groups located in local communities across the country.