The draft Green Paper for the Reform of the Federation (released today) ignores the full notion of homelessness and its drivers
"It's time governments got serious about ending homelessness in Australia," CEO of Homelessness Australia, Glenda Stevens said. "More than 105,000 Australians are homeless on any given night, and we have strong indications from our members that each day this number is climbing, particularly due to the crisis in housing affordability, but still the Federal government appears to be distancing and disengaging themselves from homelessness."
The draft paper states that the current mechanism of shared responsibility for addressing homelessness funding can act as a 'catalyst for blame shifting' between state/territory governments and the Commonwealth. However, homelessness is everyone's responsibility, it has consequences and costs for all levels of government, and it is time that the Federal government acknowledges this.
"It makes no sense that the Federal government withdraws from homelessness," Ms Stevens said. "This Green Paper explores all options, but there are a number of indications inside the tone of the paper, and in the actions of the Federal government, that point to the idea that the Federal government is pre-emptively trying to shift responsibility for homelessness and housing to the states and territories."
One of these indications is that the only national peak body for homelessness, Homelessness Australia, had its Federal government funding cut at the end of last year.
Another is that there is no current national framework for homelessness or government body tasked with coordinating efforts to address it. "And no desire by the government to develop such a framework," said Ms Stevens. "The draft paper speaks of a national framework for housing, and a national framework for reducing violence against women is currently being developed, but no such government process is foreshadowed for homelessness"
Ms Stevens said, "This makes me ask the question: is the Federal government really committed to assisting the 105,000 people who are homeless on any given night or the 254,000 people being assisted by homelessness services each year?"
Recognising the importance of national leadership through a framework, Homelessness Australia, despite funding cuts, is driving the creation of a new framework. "Homelessness Australia is committed to working with government, homelessness services, and the wider community to ensure that our most vulnerable citizens are protected. Building a framework for ending homelessness is a vital step in ensuring all levels of government and society are working as a team to end homelessness in Australia."
"The government's responsibility goes beyond just funding homelessness services," Ms Stevens said. "It needs to address the interconnecting drivers such as unemployment, lack of affordable housing, health, and education."
"When the final Green Paper is released it needs to consider homelessness – and Homelessness Australia looks forward to working with the review team in developing the homelessness section of the paper, and associated options for reform."