A man who was homeless has called for more permanent affordable housing to help Sydney's "forgotten people" reconnect with their families and get their lives back on track, as this week's annual winter street count found there were 255 people sleeping rough in the city.
These 255 people - a decrease from the 274 people counted in February this year - were sheltering in the city's streets, parks, public areas and trains, between 1am and 3am on Monday night, when temperatures dropped to 11 degrees Celsius.
It's a way of life 44-year-old David from Woolloomooloo knows only too well, after spending a decade bouncing from boarding house to refuges and rough sleeping on the streets, with the instability creating health problems, stress and relationship difficulties with his daughter.
David's life was turned around two years ago when he found permanent housing through the Way2Home assertive outreach program, which is co-funded by the City of Sydney and Housing NSW, and works with housing providers to move people off the streets and into affordable housing using a 'housing first' approach.
"Being given the opportunity to have housing is great and to be able to share my experiences and opinion is so much better," David said.
"Also, having the regular visits from Way2Home and having someone to talk to about issues that might come up - it's great to have people keeping an eye on me."
Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the City of Sydney was responding to the needs of people experiencing homelessness, but the NSW and Australian Governments, along with the private sector, needed to get serious about providing more affordable housing.
"Homelessness is a complex problem that requires a whole-of-community response from all levels of government, the not-for-profit sector and the private sector," the Lord Mayor said.
"The City Homelessness Strategy aims to end chronic homelessness in the inner city by 2017 because everyone in Sydney should be able to sleep at night with a roof over their head."
"Despite the City's best efforts, without additional housing supply and funding for assertive outreach and support services, the number of people experiencing homelessness and sleeping rough is likely to increase."
The numbers of rough sleepers have declined from 354 to 255 since the first street count in 2008, as a result of programs such as Way2Home, Bridge Housing's Platform 70 Project and Common Ground at Camperdown. But Common Ground, which has 52 apartments at Camperdown is now fully tenanted, and there are no additional developments in the pipeline.
The Way2Home program helped David after his life fell apart following a relationship breakdown and he turned to drugs and alcohol to cope. He became what he calls "a forgotten person," with no fixed address. Eventually he suffered a breakdown and went missing for six months.
In mid-2011, David was approached by a case worker from Way2Home, who helped turn his life around.
The caseworker assisted David with the paperwork, gave him encouragement and support, and within weeks had found him permanent rental accommodation through Bridge Housing's Project 70 - which provided 70 homes for 70 long-term homeless people from Woolloomooloo.
Two years later, David is still in awe of his "lucky break," which gave him the stability to rebuild his relationship with his daughter and make dreams for the future.
"This housing and support has helped me get my life back on track and has also helped my relationship with my daughter to flourish, so it's now dynamite," David said.
"I've been so happy these past few days - seeing my daughter happy and being able to give her a saxophone is a better high than any drug can give me and I wouldn't have been able to do that if I hadn't of been living where I'm living."
David now hopes to study counselling and social work at TAFE, so that he can use his experiences to help others. To see more of David's story and to learn how Way2Home and Bridge Housing are changing lives, visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pphoBPyILGQ&feature=youtu.be
Operated by Neami and St Vincent's Hospital's Way2Home health team, Way2Home was established in April 2010 and has since assisted 188 people into supported accommodation.
About 20 City staffers, 160 volunteers and 25 advisers with a lived experienced of homelessness covered two-thirds of the local government area to undertake the street count, which first took place in August 2008.
City of Sydney street count statistics:
|Aug 2008||Feb 2009||Aug 2009||Feb 2010||Aug 2010||Feb 2011||Aug 2011||Feb 2012||Aug 2012||Feb 2013||Aug
For more information, visit cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/community/community-support/homelessness
For interviews with Lord Mayor Clover Moore, contact Jonathon Larkin on 0477 310 149 or email firstname.lastname@example.org