This week the City again hosted the third annual Sydney Homeless Connect at Town Hall. The important event supports people who are homeless and those at risk of becoming homeless. It provides food and clothing as well as access to support services. Importantly it includes veterinary support for people's animal companions.
It's encouraging to see so many people volunteer their time and offer their services to make Sydney Homelessness Connect happen. Volunteers included professionals providing medical and dental checks, haircuts, counselling and legal services, and housing and employment assistance.
Around 3,000 people came to Town Hall and over the course of the day 3,500 lunches were served, more than 400 haircuts were given, 30 dental procedures were carried out, and 450 care packages were distributed.
Homelessness is a problem without borders and the City is working to prevent, reduce and manage the issue. However our latest figures show Inner Sydney has experienced a serious increase in homelessness, with a 26 per cent rise in the number of people sleeping rough over the past year.
The City's biannual Street Count in February found there were 346 people sleeping rough in the city's streets, parks and public places - up from 274 people in February last year and the highest count since winter 2011.
That is why it is so critical that the NSW Government delay funding cuts to crisis services. If the Government does not reverse its decision, many people - particularly women and children - will face a winter living rough.
All levels of government need to make a serious commitment to funding services that try to prevent people becoming homeless, and assist those who do find themselves sleeping rough. The most essential part of reducing homelessness is providing social and affordable housing, and I will continue to lobby the NSW and Australian governments to prioritise this area of work.