Homelessness is a major issue that plagues the entire nation and especially people who are socially and economically disadvantaged. According to Australian Bureau of Statistic’s Census night in 2016, an estimated of 116,000 people in Australia were homeless. The outbreak of the pandemic didn’t help the situation and severely impacted people who suffered from the predicament.
To further understanding of this problem, this transcript was edited for clarity. This conversation took place on March 12th 2021.
Moderator: Welcome everyone to another wonderful Round About Chat. I am Allen and today joining me to discuss this topic are Steven Comber and Jill Macmillan, philanthropists and volunteers who have helped thousands of homeless people over the decade. I am first going to ask a few pre-submitted questions and then the live participants can submit theirs. So, let’s start!
Pre-submitted question from Genelia: Hello, I wanted to know, what exactly is homelessness?
Steven Comber: This question is excellent for starting a conversation on the topic because it is important we understand being roofless is not only how you can be homelessness. ‘Home’ in the term signifies a sense of security, privacy, belonging, safety and having control of your living conditions. Homelessness as per the Department of Social Services relates to a person not having one or more elements that define home.
Pre-submitted question from Callum: Where are the homeless people located?
Jill Macmillan: Hi Callum, most homeless people are lodged in severely crowded dwellings. These people can be living with family members, friends, acquaintances or complete strangers. Additionally, homeless people live in supported accommodations, boarding houses, tents, improvised dwellings, or sleeping outside, temporarily in someone’s household or other lodgings.
Steven Comber: What’s more, homeless people are primarily located in major cities and remote areas in Australia. The distribution is uneven meaning some jurisdictions have more homeless people than others.
Moderator: Really insightful information Steven and Jill! Now our live participants can share their thoughts and questions. Write them in the section at the bottom of the screen and they ill added to the comment/question queue. These are very important topics that you must know about.
MartinG666: Hello guys! Who is at risk of becoming homeless? I know your social and economic standing are the major two factors. What else heightens the possibility?
Jill Macmillan: Yes, the factors you mentioned play a major role. To answer your question and her is a list of people who are at a greater risk of becoming homeless.
- Native and Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD)
- Those who have experienced or experiencing domestic or family violence, physical/sexual/emotional abuse. These usually include women and children
- People approaching middle age or already in it
- Those who have lost a partner or a carer
- Anyone with mental illness or an addiction
- People who are exiting foster/state care, military, or prison. Also, those who have previously been in these places
- Previously been homeless
- Unemployed and uneducated people
People who are at risk due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic include older single women, renters, young people who moved out of home, army veterans, temporary visa holders, exchange or international students and others who are not given any assistance by the Australian Government. Anyone who is suffering from such health issue requires help and a carer can be very useful in this situation.
Jessica: What has the government’s response been for homelessness and how did it tackle the problem during the pandemic?
Steve Comber: It important to note that the Australian Government already has several pre-existing programs and provides support. Some of these include:
- Commonwealth Rent Assistance is usually $4.6 billion annually
- National Housing and Homelessness Agreement dedicated millions to Specialist Homelessness Services
- Affordable Housing Bond Aggregator (AHBA) by National Housing and Finance Investment Corporation (NHFIC)
- First Home Loan Deposit Scheme etc.
During and After COVID-19, the government advice states and territories to:
- Provide funding for homelessness services, charities, and hotel stays
- Upgrade/Improve social housing stock and build new ones
- Impose restrictions on residential properties’ evictions and rent increase
The main aim was to provide immediate financial and other support to people at risk of facing homelessness or already experiencing it.
Bela: Hey, How does the SHS agencies help the homelessness?
Steve Comber: Specialist Homelessness Services (SHS) agencies throughout Australia provide services focused at prevention and early intervention, crisis and post-crisis assistance to people experiencing or at risk of homelessness. The agencies are funded by the government to provide housing-related and personal services. They differ in size and type of assistance provided. As previously stated, SHS agencies assist both people who are homeless and those who are at risk of becoming homeless. SHS has assisted a larger percentage of clients at risk of homelessness in compare to those experiencing homelessness each year since the collection began in 2011–12.
Moderator: Thanks for the wonderful and insightful answers guys! With this, today’s conversation on homelessness and COVID-19’s impact draws to a closes. Thank you to everyone who participated. See you all other chats we have lined up! To know more, please register your email now, if you haven’t already!