Homeless rates increase despite Rudd’s pledge
By EMMA BISCOE
PRIME Minister Kevin Rudd’s election promise in 2007 to halve homelessness by 2020 does not appear to be on track with homeless rates on the rise.
In Canberra between 1200 and1500 people are sleeping rough each night. St Vincent De Paul’s Samaritan House in Hackett is turning away about eight single men a day because they do not have the room.
St Vincent De Paul’s director of special works for the Goulburn-Canberra region, Shannon Pickles, said one of the main reasons that the homelessness is rising is due to the lack of affordable housing.
Mr Pickles said that many homeless people are dealing with a mental illness, and this should to be addressed.
“They [theFederal Government] need to spend a lot more money on support services.”
Liberal Senator Gary Humphries agrees that the housing problem needs to be fixed to combat homelessness.
“We have to make it possible for people to buy their first house,” he said.
The Federal Government will be spending $10 million on personal mentors to help homeless people with a mental illness. According to Mr Pickles this is just what is needed to make a difference.
“Any sort of mentoring or support programs are actually quite crucial and vital,” he said. “That’s one of the big factors that’s missing .”
However, Senator Humphries says this equates to $33 per homeless person per year and believes it is not enough.
“Given the size of the problem and the way in which we have to deal with a whole range of issues to deal with homelessness, a token $33 per year doesn’t go very far to deal with a major national problem,” he said.
Senator Humphries said that it was very dangerous to commit to halving homelessness unless at the same time a plan is produced to get there and the dollars to go with it, something he does not see that the government has done.
“A Coalition government would not be making such a promise unless and until we could actually show that we could reach that goal,” he said.
Despite the rise in homelessness, Mr Pickles says ithas received more funding and focus since 2007 than it has in “the last several decades”.
“We’re seeing a lot of new services, a lot of new innovation, a lot of new attempts to try and make things better,” He said Mr Pickles said that even though the rate of homelessness is on the rise, it is not an indication of lack of effort on behalf of either community services or housing.
“There are some things that just go above and beyond what funding levels are there,” he said.