During this National Homelessness Week Christian charity Mission Australia says the country needs around a million new affordable homes over the next 20 years. That’s far in excess of the 30,000 new homes pledged by the Albanese government in the first five years of its $10 billion social housing package which the Coalition and the Greens have so far declined to support.
Mission Australia CEO Sharon Callister told Vision Radio: “I can tell you that the estimates are that over the next two decades we will need approximately 900,000 to 950,000 new social and affordable homes to actually meet the supply. So the demand for homes in Australia will require all levels of government working together. It will require investment from the private sector. It will require community organisations like ours all working together. And it all really needs to be integrated to a national housing and homelessness plan, which the Federal Government are currently developing. So it’s quite a multi-pronged approach, but it is do-able and if we have the will, we will be able to do it.”
“It’s a very sad state of affairs in Australia. A lucky country like Australia where nobody should be homeless. But if you look at census figures between 2021 and 2016, it’s a 5.2% increase which means that 122,000 people in Australia do not have a safe place to call home. And we know that those numbers are probably underestimates,” Ms. Callister explained.
“Our staff say the homelessness situation in Australia at the moment is the worst that they have ever seen. There are some real glimmers of hope and light and there are things that are very devastating. 50% of the people that come to Mission Australia for help in relation to homelessness have already been evicted, or for other reasons are homeless. But the other 50% are actually ‘at risk’ of homelessness,” she stated.
The latter group are considered the ‘hidden homeless,’ living transient lives because they’re forced to survive in insecure, uncomfortable and temporary living conditions such as a car or garage. Mission Australia workers say many of these individuals and families don’t consider themselves as homeless, so they struggle in silence. They are often victims of domestic violence; mental health issues and the critical housing shortage.
A recent report by the charity found that of those ‘at risk,’ nearly all of them would have been helped by the provision of long-term accommodation. Ms. Callister says that means much more money needs to be invested in prevention rather than just crisis intervention.
The Guardian reports Homelessness Australia (HA) as saying the housing crisis and rising financial stress are pushing more than 1,600 people into homelessness each month with demand for homelessness services surging 7.5% in the four months from last December to March. Every hour, 3,000 people seek help from those services, with women and children making up nearly three quarters of them.
HA CEO Kate Colvin lamented: “A 7.5% increase in demand in just four months is unheard of. It forces homelessness services to make extremely tough decisions about who gets assistance.”
Mission Australia is calling on as many people as possible around the country to take 122,000 steps during this week to help raise funds for the nation’s 122,000 homeless. Sharon Callister told Vision Radio that’s not as hard as it sounds:
“It’s just over 17,000 steps a day for one week. It might be 15 kilometres a day. When you think about the fact, though, that those steps can include getting up, going about doing your daily chores, going to the park, going to work, doing your shopping, you would be surprised when you start to actually count the number of steps that you take, how easy it is to get to that mark. We are going to be raising funds for an incredibly important cause across Australia and we’re going to help really vulnerable people. I mean, what better challenge could you have?” she acclaimed.
Click below to listen to the full interview with Mission Australia CEO Sharon Callister:
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