This week I was proud to welcome Sydney Homeless Connect to Town Hall.
Sydney Homeless Connect was co-founded by Andrew Everingham and Peter Drurie and launched at Town Hall in 2010. I was inspired to see so many people volunteering their time and skills today to help people in need.
The event connects people who need help with the services, information and support they need. This includes medical, housing, identification and legal services. Rough sleepers can bring their pets to see the vet, get a haircut, speak to a counsellor, enjoy a hearty lunch and much more.
When the event launched in 2010 we hoped that it would only have a finite life. We were optimistic when the six-monthly Street Counts we introduced in 2008 began to show a consistent drop. Last year, the numbers of homeless people fell from an all-time peak of 418 to 310.
While that figure fell further, our most recent Count, held in February this year, recorded a slight increase of 28 rough sleepers - the first time that numbers had increased since 2010.
Our Homelessness Unit believes the factors responsible include the chronic shortage of new affordable housing stock and the need for Way2Home to shift their focus to supporting the 170 people that have placed into supported housing.
The City is doing all it can to support new affordable housing stock, with a target of 15 per cent of homes in our LGA classed as affordable or social housing by 2030.
At least 900 new affordable housing units have been built or are being built as a result of our Affordable Rental Housing Strategy, with a total target of 3,000.
In March this year, state governments agreed to match $159 million in federal funding to continue homelessness services, but this will run out by 2014.
I call on the governments to urgently resolve a National Partnership Agreement to fund long-term programs that have had proven success in the inner city and elsewhere - programs like Way2Home, Platform 70 and Common Ground.
I have written to the Premier to ask the NSW Government to:
- Commit to funding new supported housing in the inner City and surrounding local government areas
- Increase the funding for assertive outreach services to enable ongoing intervention and support tenancies
- Ensure Housing NSW is resourced to allow trained staff to better manage tenancies to prevent people becoming homeless
- Ensure adequate provision of social and affordable housing in the inner city to prevent increased homelessness.
I remain confident that we will eventually reach our goals - but we can only do it with the support of government.