Charities blamed for homelessness

everyone should have a home
West Australian Police Minister, Liza Harvey, has sparked controversy for blaming homelessness in Perth on charities not doing their jobs properly.

Ms Harvey told reporters she believed there was sufficient funding and services available to tackle homelessness.

“The accommodation is there, the support services are there, the not-for-profit groups are there, the money’s flowing into the system,” Ms Harvey said.

“Clearly if there are homeless people sleeping on King Street, those people aren’t doing their jobs properly.”

The comments came in light of the West Australian government’s decision to cease the use of installed sprinklers to deter homeless people from sleeping outside the King Street Arts Centre.

Ms Harvey’s remarks have been criticised by many charities for ignoring the financial reality many agencies face with limited resources. Recent federal funding cuts to emergency relief programs have increased the pressure on social services to meet demand.

Earlier this year, the Federal Government slashed the emergency relief funding of UnitingCare agencies by almost 30 per cent over the next three years. This is despite increasing rates of homelessness and greater demand for emergency support services.

Between 2011 and 2014, churches and agencies received $4.17 million in emergency relief funding from the Federal Government. This will be reduced to $2.91 million over the next three years.

UnitingCare Tasmania’s emergency relief services in southern Tasmania have reduced their operating hours from four half days a week to about 10 hours a week due to the funding cuts. Food vouchers will also decrease from $80 to $50 in order to meet demand.

UnitingCare Tasmania CEO Lindy O’Neill said many of the agency’s clients are forced to decide between buying food and paying essential bills.

“Parents often choose to feed their children and go without themselves and engage in paying the most urgent bill just before the service is disconnected or a debt collection service is involved,” said Ms O’Neill.

“Some people have even been unable to pay for essential prescription medicines.

“These are not families who can’t budget. These are people for whom the simple maths of income and expenditure do not and cannot balance.”

UnitingCare Werribee Support and Housing assists approximately 2500 people every year. Many of their clients are women and children at risk of homelessness after fleeing family violence.

But decreasing funds, along with an increasing number of people needing help, means the agency will have to reduce the number of food parcels and vouchers by half beginning this month.

Donations to Share’s annual Winter Appeal will be essential in providing funds for UnitingCare agencies this year. Agencies have requested more than $880,000 in emergency relief funding, which is double the amount distributed last year.

Share is calling on all Uniting Church members to donate generously this winter and help provide crisis housing for vulnerable individuals and families. You can make a donation to the Share Winter Appeal here.

Image by Helen Taylor via Flickr.

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