UnitingCare Australia has joined other prominent welfare organisations – including Anglicare, Mission Australia, St Vincent de Paul and Wesley Mission – calling on the major parties to make reducing homelessness a national priority.
In a joint letter addressed to Malcolm Turnbull, Bill Shorten, Richard Di Natale and Barnaby Joyce, the organisations asked for a commitment to halve homelessness by 2025.
The number of people who are homeless in Australia is growing. In Victoria, more than 22,700 people were classified as homeless in the last census, a 20 per cent increase since 2006. UnitingCare Australia believes leadership from the federal government is needed to reverse this trend.
Approximately one in three people who seek homeless support services are women and children escaping family violence. People with disabilities also encounter difficulties accessing accommodation that meets their needs.
Martin J Cowling, UnitingCare Australia’s associate national director, said access to safe and stable housing is essential for well-functioning families and communities.
“Australia has the resources to ensure that everyone experiences belonging in a safe and supportive community with appropriate, affordable housing,” he said.
“Various groups in our community are more vulnerable to homelessness. Many experience barriers to housing that are related to their personal situation, such as domestic violence or mental health issues.”
Crisis accommodation services throughout the country are stretched due to increasing demand and uncertain federal funding. In 2014-15, homelessness support services had to turn away more than 230 people every day.
UnitingCare Australia and other welfare organisations are urging the major parties to provide adequate, long-term funding for homelessness support programs. This includes an ongoing commitment to prevention and early intervention strategies.
“Whilst solutions may require increased expenditure in the short term, action now will enable governments to avoid the high costs of dealing with the wider effects of homelessness once it occurs,” Mr Cowling said.
“Successfully addressing this issue will require collaboration between different levels of government, and with private and not-for-profit organisations.”
UnitingCare Australia is encouraging Uniting Church members to sign an online petition which calls on the major parties to help halve homelessness within the next decade. You can sign the petition here.