COVID spurred action on rough sleepers but greater homelessness challenges lie ahead


Hal Pawson, UNSW and Cameron Parsell, The University of Queensland

COVID-19 triggered multimillion-dollar commitments by state governments to tackle homelessness. Our research for the Australian Homelessness Monitor 2020, released today, reveals at least 33,000 rough sleepers and other homeless people have been booked into hotels and other temporary accommodation during the crisis.

Beyond this, several states have pledged funds and support to move beyond this short-term fix and ensure former rough sleepers find long-term housing.




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These are commendable actions in a long-neglected policy area, even if largely inspired by public health anxieties rather than concern for the welfare of people without a home.

Still, our research also shows the burst of activity over the past six months builds on several years of stepped-up state government action to tackle street homelessness across Australia.

What prompted governments to act?

Three factors seem to have contributed:

  1. around 2016, rising inner-city rough sleeping apparently crossed a threshold of political embarrassment

  2. people experiencing homelessness challenged official complacency with direct action, including protest camps in Sydney’s Martin Place and outside Melbourne’s Flinders Street Station during the 2017 Australian Open tennis tournament

  3. a new level of activism, often inspired by developments overseas, led to initiatives such as the Everybody’s Home campaign, the Australian Alliance to End Homelessness, the Constellation Project and Adelaide Zero.




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In response, several state governments boosted efforts to reduce street homelessness. Measures included expanded outreach services and offers of housing assistance, increased spending on rental subsidies and personal support for former rough sleepers, and leasing of private rental properties as temporary social housing.

Some states even set specific targets to reduce homelessness. New South Wales, for example, pledged to cut rough sleeping on Sydney’s streets by a quarter between 2017 and 2020. Statewide, the aim is to halve street homelessness between 2019 and 2025.

Such targets are a welcome sign of ambition. They could even spur other states and territories to make similar commitments.

Rough sleepers are just the visibly homeless

As our report explains, though, these aspirations raise tricky issues of definition and measurement. And they focus narrowly on rough sleeping. Though highly visible, it’s just one of the forms of homelessness.

This approach risks airbrushing the wider, and much larger, homelessness problem. Of the 116,000 homeless people counted by the 2016 Census some 8,000 were rough sleepers. Homelessness also includes experiences such as as couch surfing and living in badly overcrowded dwellings and short-term, unsafe accommodation like rooming houses.




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Crucially, homelessness cannot be overcome purely through better management and co-ordination of existing services. Nor can it be seriously tackled by state/territory governments without federal support.

New wave of homelessness is looming

The most immediate concern now is an imminent surge in homelessness. This is likely in coming months as a result of JobKeeper payments and JobSeeker Coronavirus Supplements being scaled back and bans on evictions lifted.

These protections staved off a new, recession-induced, homelessness crisis through the winter months. But, since mid-year, rough sleeper numbers have been on the rise once again in cities including Adelaide and Sydney. This is almost certainly a problem deferred, rather than a problem avoided.

We know, for example, that many tenants who lost incomes and sought reduced rent have only been granted deferrals. They are building up big arrears.




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Rough sleeper packing up in Melbourne laneway
Sleeping rough is on the rise again in Australian cities.
Indigo Skies Photography/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

For their part, many landlords have lost rental income – by negotiation or otherwise. They represent about one-third of the more than 400,000 mortgage accounts on which banks have agreed to defer payments.

The extent of any surge in homelessness will depend on the public health situation, the timing and vitality of post-pandemic economic recovery, and on how quickly eviction bans and income-support measures are withdrawn. However, if unemployment hits 10% as predicted, homelessness could rise by 21% according to one projection for NSW.

For state governments, housing the mid-2020 rough-sleeper cohort has been enough of a challenge on its own. Even with stepped-up assistance programs, the states lack the capacity to cope with a surge of households newly evicted from private rental housing.

The main problem is a lack of homes at rents that low-income tenants can afford. A large part of the reason is decades of official inaction that effectively halved Australia’s supply of social housing since the 1990s. On top of that, the shortfall of private rental properties affordable for low-income tenants grew by 54% in the decade to 2016, as detailed in our report.

What needs to be done?

Lessons from Australia’s success in tackling street homelessness during the pandemic must be integrated with ongoing services. We have to reduce reliance on band-aid interventions that are costly and, at best, only lessen the harm. Homelessness is bad for health and for our society at all times, not just during pandemics.

Governments at all levels must recognise that the growing homelessness problem of the past two decades calls for a comprehensive housing policy rethink.




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Yes, governments have partnered with community organisations to get people off the streets during the pandemic, which is something to celebrate. But these successes do not resolve the underlying structural problems.

The federal government has a critical role to play in both policy and funding. It must be far more active in owning and tackling the issue. Essential first steps are to permanently boost JobSeeker payments and the rate of Commonwealth Rent Assistance. And the government should properly index these payments, as it does the Aged Pension.

Beyond this, the Commonwealth must use its greater budget capacity –
more than the combined resources of the states and territories – to invest in building new social housing at scale. For almost the entire period since 1996 we’ve been building only 2,000-3,000 social housing units per year. Just to keep pace with a growing population, that needs to be 15,000 a year. It’s essential not just as a stimulus for post-pandemic recovery as proposed, but as a routine national program long into the future.

Such action should be part of a comprehensive national housing strategy to design and phase-in the wide-ranging reforms of taxes and regulations needed to rebalance Australia’s housing system and tackle homelessness at its source.


The authors are very grateful to Peter Mares for his input into this article.The Conversation

Hal Pawson, Professor of Housing Research and Policy, and Associate Director, City Futures Research Centre, UNSW and Cameron Parsell, Associate Professor, School of Social Science, The University of Queensland

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

If Australia really wants to tackle mental health after coronavirus, we must take action on homelessness



Shutterstock

Vaughan J Carr, UNSW and Anthony Jorm, University of Melbourne

The COVID-19 pandemic has opened fault lines in social, economic and health-care policy in Australia. One area in which all three converge is homelessness.

It’s almost impossible to practise self-isolation and good hygiene if you’re living on the streets or moving from place to place. This puts homeless people at higher risk of both catching the disease and transmitting it to others.

At the beginning of the pandemic, governments recognised this problem and responded by housing homeless people in hotels.

But we need to act now to ensure these people aren’t forced back onto the streets as the pandemic recedes.

This is particularly important given we’re worried about the mental health fallout of the pandemic. Evidence shows homelessness and mental illness are inextricably linked.




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Homelessness in Australia

The initiative to house the homeless in hotels has been targeted mostly at “rough sleepers”, of whom there are more than 8,000 in Australia.

But people who sleep on the streets make up only a tiny proportion of the Australians we consider to be homeless. Homeless people also include those living in unstable or substandard accommodation, for example.

In 2018-19 more than 290,000 Australians – roughly 1.2% of the population – accessed specialist homelessness services.

So this is only a temporary solution to a national emergency, and addresses only the tip of the iceberg.

Mental illness and beyond

At least one in three homeless people have a mental illness.

Homelessness is often a consequence of mental illness, especially of the more severe kinds that involve hallucinations, confusion, mood swings, depression and intense anxiety.

It’s also a consequence of family violence, which itself increases the risk of poor mental health in children and adults.

But homelessness can also be a cause of mental illness, through its associations with poverty, unemployment, emotional stress, food insecurity, discrimination, exploitation, loneliness and exposure to violence, crime and drugs.

It’s a vicious cycle. Mental illness can lead to homelessness, and homelessness can lead to mental illness.
Shutterstock

The pandemic has momentarily lifted the cover on homelessness as a widespread and, so far, intractable social, economic and health problem.

It’s not only a reservoir of private suffering for those driven to the social margins through unstable or inadequate accommodation.

Homelessness also has broad social impacts, including lost productivity, adverse effects on young people’s health, education and well-being, and increased consumption of mental health services and criminal justice resources, among others.




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Next steps

What will happen to the homeless people currently housed in hotels as the pandemic subsides?

As catastrophic an event as COVID-19 has been, it has created a unique opportunity to improve the long-neglected and critically poor state of social housing in Australia.

The Community Housing Industry Association recently put forward a strong economic argument under the Social Housing Acceleration and Renovation Program (SHARP) proposal for national investment in building 30,000 social housing units and upgrading existing housing.

Meanwhile, the Productivity Commission draft report on mental illness and the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) have put forward robust recommendations concerning housing policy for people with mental illness.

The Productivity Commission and AHURI both advocate increased investment in low-cost, secure and good-quality accommodation, linked where necessary with suitable support services.

Many jurisdictions have excellent programs that help people with mental illness to live independently, such as the Housing and Accommodation Support Initiative in NSW. But these need to be scaled up dramatically.




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Affordable social housing combined with government transfer payments (such as pensions, Centrelink and disability payments) sufficient to meet basic living costs would be a major boon to mental health in this country.

Both the Productivity Commission and AHURI highlight bridging the gaps in social housing could promote recovery from mental illness, enabling greater social participation and enhancing well-being. It’s likely this approach would also prevent many cases of mental illness before they take hold.

In the long term this would far exceed the benefits flowing from piecemeal handouts for clinical services, which is the present norm in addressing the mental health fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Improving social housing in Australia would have a range of benefits.
Shutterstock

Home improvements or reducing homelessness?

Last week the Australian government announced HomeBuilder grants of A$25,000 for owner-occupiers for certain works on their homes. This funding will be going to people who already have homes and can afford substantial renovations.

There is a strong case for making similar investments in housing the homeless, which would substantially benefit the mental health of our most disadvantaged citizens.

Now is the time for a nationally coordinated effort by federal and state governments to institute economic, social and health policies to address the nexus between homelessness and mental health, and the poverty that feeds into both.




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The Conversation


Vaughan J Carr, Professor of Psychiatry, University of New South Wales; Adjunct Professor, Monash University, UNSW and Anthony Jorm, Professor emeritus, University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Homelessness and overcrowding expose us all to coronavirus. Here’s what we can do to stop the spread




Nicole Gurran, University of Sydney; Peter Phibbs, University of Sydney, and Tess Lea, University of Sydney

Staying home and social distancing are now essential to control the spread of COVID-19. Suitable accommodation for quarantine and isolation are critical, but Australia’s broken housing system leaves us all exposed.

By now, almost every Australian will have thought about the coronavirus pandemic in terms of their own housing. For many home owners, this is an economic concern. They are dangerously in debt after a 20-year housing boom. Renters face greater uncertainty.




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But it’s people in overcrowded, informal or no housing at all who are most exposed. Crowded housing conditions are bad for all occupants, largely through the increased risks of infections, as WHO Guidelines on Health and Housing clearly identify.

Expose one, expose us all

The increased risk of COVID-19 infection will have impacts on both the residents of crammed dwellings and the rest of the community. Improving the housing conditions of the most marginalised members of our society is an important biosecurity measure.

The number of Australians who are homeless grew dramatically from 2011-2016. The largest increase was people living in severely overcrowded dwellings.


Data: ABS Census 2016, CC BY

This trend includes a sharp rise in older people living in crowded or marginal housing.


Data: ABS Census 2016, CC BY



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Crowding is endemic in Indigenous communities. Poorly maintained and inadequate dwelling conditions make the impacts of crowding worse.

Previous experience with swine flu – Influenza A (H1N1) – indicates contagious disease outbreaks in Indigenous communities will be catastrophic. After over a decade of making remote areas harder places to be – as a result of cuts to housing and infrastructure allocations and increased water insecurity – they are now expected to operate as refuges.

Tertiary students, including international students, are also likely to be living in overcrowded share houses and room-share rentals. These arrangements already breach basic health and sanitation standards.




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These problems aren’t due to a shortage of housing. Census data show the number of unoccupied dwellings increased during the same period that homelessness grew.


Data: ABS Census, CC BY

Rather than an absolute shortage of homes, our increasingly financialised property market has distorted access to decent accommodation. Housing is now treated as an asset instead of a basic right. In recent years platforms such as Airbnb have made this situation worse by transforming permanent rentals into short-term accommodation for tourists.




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What should governments do?

Moves to prevent evictions and to offer mortgage relief during the pandemic period are an urgent first step in what needs to be rapid national action on housing.

Securing adequate housing for those in unstable accommodation, particularly those who need to isolate, is the next phase in this public health response. Suitable housing must be made available immediately in locations near hospitals and key health services. This can be triaged.

Options might include:

  • local hotels or motels – for people in metropolitan and some regional centres this seems to be an obvious option as many are likely empty of travellers

  • vacant holiday homes or temporary workforce housing

  • other health accommodation used for rehabilitation that can be repurposed

  • construction of temporary dwellings.

Hotels close to major teaching (university) hospitals could be commandeered for patients with COVID-19 who need quarantined nursing care, but not intubation to help them breathe.

These hotels could also provide places of rest for health workers who might wish to isolate themselves from their families while they fight in our favour. For example, the University of Tasmania has provided one of its hotel buildings, which has been used for student housing, to the Tasmanian government for this purpose.

Access to hotels and motels for civilian isolation practices more broadly is an obvious solution across urban areas and regional centres.

To reduce the risks arising from inadequate housing, the nation’s vast holiday rental supply should also be considered for people on priority waiting lists for social housing who are in crowded accommodation. Owners of currently empty holiday accommodation could receive the equivalent of rent assistance payments from the Commonwealth for making their housing available.




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A vast tourism workforce of property managers, maintenance and cleaning staff, already reeling from the bushfire crisis, is likely ready and able to repurpose residential tourist accommodation for those in need.

On the other side of the health crisis, it’s clear a rapid, nation-building expansion in social and affordable housing must be part of Australia’s plan. Well-designed, secure and maintained housing should be Australia’s first defence, not our weakest link, in combating health, climate and economic crises.




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The Conversation


Nicole Gurran, Professor of Urban and Regional Planning, University of Sydney; Peter Phibbs, Director, Henry Halloran Trust, University of Sydney, and Tess Lea, Associate Professor, Gender and Cultural Studies, University of Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Coronavirus puts casual workers at risk of homelessness unless they get more support



LightField Studios/Shutterstock

Simone Casey, RMIT University and Liss Ralston, Swinburne University of Technology

Our analysis shows an economic downturn as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic will dramatically increase rental stress for people with insecure or casual work. If the downturn persists this will place people in precarious jobs at higher risk of homelessness.

The scenario we explored is the effect of loss of casual work on people on very low incomes. We identify this at-risk group as those aged between 19 and 30 years, living independently with disposable incomes of A$600 a week from casual work or a combination of casual work and benefits.




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They typically work in cafes, restaurants, catering, events, fast food and retail. These are the jobs most immediately impacted by an economic slowdown. It is estimated one in four Australian workers is casual, although not all are on low incomes.

The infographic below illustrates the extreme rental stress a slowdown will cause the low-income casual workers. We have calculated average rent across the broader Melbourne and Sydney metropolitan areas. The infographic shows the impact on rental stress of losing up to A$300 per week of disposable income. The percentages represent the amount of income taken up by rent, with red indicating the most extreme rental stress.


Source: REIA median rental data (December, 2019), A Guide to Australian Government Payments, authors’ calculations

For example, the top row shows a casual worker in Sydney sharing a two-bedroom flat earning A$604 a week had A$344 disposable income after rent. The final row shows an individual in Sydney with A$326 weekly income after losing work income. Their rent then takes up 80% of their income, leaving them with A$66 a week to live on after rent.

The potential impact of the downturn on the disposable income of people with very low incomes means they will be in extreme rental stress unless they have savings.

So do they have savings?

The federal government has suggested casual workers have savings to tide them over. Our analysis of Australian Bureau of Statistics data suggests 38.9% of those earning A$600 or less per week have less than A$600 in savings to get them through. Over a quarter of this group are already in debt.

Another 26.6% of low-income casual workers have a month or less for things to get back to normal.

Average savings of people earning A$600 a week.
Source: Income and Housing, Australia, 2017-18 (Australian Bureau of Statistics), Authors’ calculations

These savings will be used up rapidly when average rent in a share house is A$133-220 per week in Melbourne and A$165-260 in Sydney. These rents include outer metropolitan areas, so rental stress in the inner cities will be worse, as our previous analysis showed.




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The downturn will affect a large number of people already on benefits because their income is partly from benefits and partly from earnings. According to data from the Department of Social Services, 41% of Youth Allowance recipients, 28% of NewStart recipients and 36% of Parenting Payment single recipients are working and therefore receive part-rate allowances.

Will the first economic stimulus package help?

For people already receiving benefits the one-off A$750 stimulus payment will help to tide them over for 3-4 weeks’ rent. But to date casual workers have not been included in that stimulus payment (unless they receive Family Tax Benefit).

People who lose their casual work will be able to get the new JobSeeker payment from March 20. It’s the same as the NewStart rate – A$326 per week (including average rent assistance) – so it is clear they will be in immediate rental stress.




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It’s worth noting this rental crisis is compounded because NewStart has not kept pace with rental increases over the last 25 years. NewStart has been increased by CPI only. The chart below shows how wide the gap between Melbourne rent price increases and CPI has become.

Median increase in Melbourne rents and CPI, June 1999 – December 2019.
Source: Rental Report, Department of Health & Human Services (Dec 2019), Consumer Price Index (ABS), Authors’ calculations

So what needs to be done?

The loss of income for casual workers will result in extreme rental stress for people who were already on low incomes. This issue demands urgent attention to prevent a homelessness epidemic. Agencies like the Council for Homeless Persons are already calling for an immediate moratorium on evictions.

Landlords have a responsibility here as well since they benefit from continuity of rentals and the contribution of government policy to their wealth and assets. For example, low-income rents are paid out of a combination of regular earnings, benefit payments and rent assistance. These will now be supplemented because people on low incomes are likely to use the stimulus package to keep up.

The challenge for the government is to provide support to people on very low incomes that will see them through the entire COVID-19 crisis. One solution would be to immediately increase the JobSeeker payment to help people on low incomes ride out the downturn in casual work. Another solution would be to provide replacement income for casual workers affected by the downturn.The Conversation

Simone Casey, Research Associate, Future Social Service Institute, RMIT University and Liss Ralston, Urban Statistician, Centre for Urban Transitions, Swinburne University of Technology

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Why Australia’s homelessness problem is getting worse, despite a rise in housing stock


Rachel Ong, Curtin University and Gavin Wood, RMIT University

New housing supply is simply not expanding affordable housing opportunities for the poor in a way that reduces the homelessness count. We argue that this is due to certain barriers that prevent new supply from filtering down to low-income groups.

Politicians and economists often claim a housing supply crisis is to blame for the lack of affordable housing in Australia. They say increases in housing stock are failing to keep pace with population growth.

In a 2017 address to the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, Treasurer Scott Morrison said:

… for certain Australian households, housing affordability is an issue regardless of where they live due to economic reasons … However, in Sydney and Melbourne where supply has failed to keep pace with rising demand, the problem is far more acute… The principal cause of declining housing affordability is the failure of housing supply to adjust to increased demand…

Yet housing approval data from the Australian Bureau of Statics show the growth in housing stock has actually outpaced rates of population increase in all Australian capital cities.

https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/WGWnh/1/

Between 2005-06 and 2014-15, housing stock has expanded by over 22% while population growth has lagged behind at 19%. Despite this, median residential property prices nearly doubled in the same period.

How it should work in theory

Increasing housing stock only works to make housing more affordable if certain filtering processes occur. This is how it looks if the number of new homes increases while the number of households stays fixed or increases at a slower pace.

Those in higher-income households may wish to upgrade to a newer, more expensive house. The established home they vacate would be more appealing to other households if it falls in price. This would then make it affordable to a middle-income household. And the home this middle-income household will vacate would then also fall in value and become affordable for a lower-income household.




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Eventually, affordable housing opportunities would trickle down to the homeless, and the homelessness count would decline. But, in Australia, homelessness is on the rise. Back in 2006, fewer than 90,000 people were homeless. Within a decade, that number has climbed by nearly one-third, to more than 116,000 people – a 10% increase.

The number of homeless people in NSW has increased more than any other state.
Ivan Wong Rodenas/Flickr, CC BY

New South Wales has fared the worst. The number of homeless people in NSW has soared by 70% between 2006 and 2016. With the exception of the Northern Territory, all other states and territories witnessed an increase in homelessness in this period.

So, despite the rise in housing stock, most states and territories have failed to contain, never mind reverse, the rise in homelessness over the last decade. Why are the filtering processes not working?

Barriers to affordability

Deregulation of Australian financial markets and tax concessions have combined to make residential property an attractive investment, especially for higher-income households. So a higher-income earner would gain an additional property rather than swapping one for the other and leaving the vacated one affordable for the next in line.

And if a substantial share of new housing is being purchased as holiday homes or investments, this can stifle the trickle down of affordable housing opportunities.

The recent growth in net overseas migration is a likely barrier as well. Between 2004 and 2015, net overseas migration climbed by 30%, from 138,800 to 181,050. This has outstripped the 22% housing stock growth rate over roughly the same period.




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While migration is included in overall population numbers, in this case, the houses migrants are vacating to move to Australia remain in their home country. So this doesn’t contribute to the filtering process.

Transaction costs (mainly high stamp duties) can deter people from trading up, or downsizing. Transaction costs are a drag on resident movements and suppress housing stock turnover.

Finally, land and building regulations can play a role. Elderly people who may wish to downsize from a family home to an apartment usually want to live in the same neighbourhood. Yet planning interventions may prevent the construction of units in the suburbs downsizers would prefer.

The ConversationUntil these barriers are lowered, simply increasing new housing supply cannot be the silver bullet that fixes homelessness and the housing affordability concerns of the Australian population.

Rachel Ong, Professor of Economics, School of Economics and Finance, Curtin University and Gavin Wood, Emeritus Professor of Housing and Housing Studies, RMIT University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

How history can challenge the narrative of blame for homelessness



File 20170717 22568 sx7l61
While homelessness is becoming more visible, it is not new in affluent societies like Australia.
AAP/Joe Castro

Anne O’Brien, UNSW

Homelessness is a pressing humanitarian problem – one that is increasingly in the public eye. The evictions, protests, personal histories and statistical profiles of people experiencing it appear regularly in the media.

While some reports are negative, intent on portraying wasters or frauds, most seek to explain how people came to be homeless and show the experience as traumatising. Whatever their politics, almost all use the language of crisis.

But while homelessness is becoming more visible, it is not new in affluent societies like Australia. What is new is the copious evidence showing that it is possible to end – or at least radically reduce – homelessness. And taking the long view can reveal patterns that explain how and why people get caught up in conditions not of their making.

A lack of coherent policy

The concept of “housing first”, which has been in operation in Britain since the early 1990s and in the US since the early 2000s, shows that when people are provided with housing and support, they maintain tenancies.

Its premise is that housing is a human right. It also costs less. Research has found that people who were chronically homeless used A$13,000 less government services annually once they were housed.

So, if the problem is not lack of know-how, and if a more cost-effective option is available, why can’t we decide to end homelessness?

Some steps have been taken in Australia. In 2008 the Rudd government introduced a policy shift from managing to eradicating homelessness, promising to halve it by 2020 through a 55% increase in funding. But the Coalition cut funding in 2013.

While the 2017 federal budget increased funding by $375 million over three years, this is not enough to implement long-term strategies. The uncertainty of the budget cycle severely constrains what service providers can do.

This is a depressingly familiar scenario, but it is not set in stone. Activists and advocates achieved bipartisan support for the National Disability Insurance Scheme and, despite efforts to curtail it, it has survived. So why not bipartisan support for ending homelessness? For reviving and sustaining “housing first”?

But it’s hard to convince politicians that this is both good policy and won’t lose them the next election. And it’s even more difficult to assure voters that people experiencing homelessness are not getting it easy, when much of the tabloid media perpetuates a narrative of blame.

Why can’t we decide to end homelessness?
Homeless Persons Union of Victoria/Facebook

Challenging the narrative

A clear strategy is to challenge that narrative. A recently aired SBS program, Filthy Rich and Homeless, sought to do this by showing how hard it is to lift yourself up if you have nothing. Its interviews with people actually experiencing homelessness showed the brutal combination of circumstances that got them where they were.

Understanding homelessness in historical perspective also undermines the blame narrative. Knowing that homelessness increases as a result of devastating mega-events, such as war and depression, or at times when supplies of affordable housing and paid work diminish, challenges the waster/fraud idea.

Not all become homeless in these contexts. Historical records provide strong evidence that people from violent or luckless families are more liable, that macro and micro conditions intersect to precipitate homelessness.

Showing that homelessness has waxed and waned is a key to changing the narrative, just as fluctuations in employment refute the “dole bludger” label.

Few people applied for “the dole” during the post-war boom – but once the economy retracted in the early 1970s, applications increased. Not surprisingly, this was when the notion of the “dole bludger” took off.

It is difficult to get figures on homelessness in the past. But newspapers and reports from governments and NGOs give a sense of surges in homelessness at various times.

In the 1920s, when so many survivors of the first world war suffered physical or mental disability, reports of “diggers” sleeping in the Domain were common. By the late 1930s, care homes for “burnt-out diggers” were being built in the major cities, and some veterans were utilising the resources of the old city missions.

Civilian homelessness surged in the 1930s depression – and not just among itinerant men, but among the less-visible women and young people. Records of Sydney’s YWCA hostel show women escaping family violence or suffering mental illness, both of which were exacerbated by war and depression.

One of the first surveys of homeless youth in Australia, published by the Brotherhood of Saint Laurence in 1942, shows homelessness being produced systemically across generations. Most of the boys at their hostel had run away from home “because of cruel punishments or unhappiness” or had spent their childhoods in “care”.

So, if there is a crisis of homelessness, it has been going on in Australia for a long time. This should not be cause for despair. Instead, it is a call to deploy the big picture in the campaign to eradicate the narrative of blame.


The ConversationThis piece was co-authored by Heather Holst, deputy CEO of community housing provider Launch Housing, who is the co-researcher on this project.

Anne O’Brien, Professor of History, UNSW

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Change


Many people, myself included, often wonder just what they can do to effect change in something that disturbs them, angers them, in something they strongly disagree with, etc. It could by a human rights issue, a health problem that plagues poor people, homelessness, a green issue, etc. The thing that galvanises a lot of people is their sense of inability to effect change and/or how to go about effecting the change they desire.

We might see a news report on the nightly news about a devastating famine or destructive tsunami and think that the problem is just too big and there is little we can actually do to help. At other times we might think, ‘if only there was some way we could help here,’ but we don’t because we don’t know how. Just maybe if there was some place we could turn that could give us some direction?

Thankfully there are places to turn and one of these places is change.org – the link follows at the end of this post. This site seeks to inform about issues and also to empower normal people to be able to do something about whatever that issue might be. The site covers a plethora of issues that people and groups are seeking to tackle all around the world and is a great place to visit on a regular basis. there is a blog to keep you up to date on what is happening.

Not only does the site inform, it also empowers. It is a portal to a massive range of issues and action groups seeking to change the world for the better, generally speaking. We may not agree with the mission statements for every single action group that we come across at change.org, but there are so many represented there that the chances are good that you will soon find one or more that you can actively support.

There are plenty of opportunities to get involved in should you wish. You can also donate to the causes that you wish to support via the site.

http://www.change.org/

CHRISTIANS JAILED IN UZBEKISTAN AFTER A MEAL IN PRIVATE HOUSE


Uzbekistan has since the beginning of March imposed short jail terms on four Protestants, as well as detaining three more in a centre for the homeless, Forum 18 News Service has learnt.

Three Protestants were each jailed for 15 days, after police raided a meal in a private home where the three were present, and three more were held in a homelessness centre for between four and eleven days.

Asked why individuals must ask for permission to gather for a religious purpose, the judge told Forum 18 that “I am not a law-maker, and I don’t want to discuss the law.” In a separate case, a Baptist was jailed for 10 days after some 20 officials from various state agencies – including the Presidential Administration – raided a prayer meeting in a registered church.

Officials told church members that they need special permission for any services apart from those on Sundays, though Forum 18 can find no requirement for this in published laws or regulations.

Report from the Christian Telegraph

IRAQ: FLEEING CHRISTIANS FACE NEW HARDSHIPS IN TURKEY


As renewed violence in Mosul halts return, refugees wait in Turkish legal limbo.

ISTANBUL, November 14 (Compass Direct News) – In this Turkish city’s working-class neighborhood of Kurtulus, Arabic can be heard on the streets, signs are printed in the Arabic alphabet and Iraqis congregate in tea shops.

In 99-percent Muslim Turkey, most of these Iraqis are not Muslims. And they are not in Turkey by choice. They are Christian refugees who fled their homeland to escape the murderous violence that increasingly has been directed at them.

It is hard to tell how many of Mosul’s refugees from the recent wave of attacks have made their way to Istanbul, but finding these residents here is not hard. A middle-aged Iraqi refugee who fled Mosul five months ago now attends a Syrian Orthodox Church in the poverty-stricken neighborhood of Tarlabasi, where gypsies, transvestites, and immigrants from Turkey’s east live in hopes of a better life in Istanbul.

Declining to give his name, the refugee said there is no future for Christians in Iraq and that nearly everyone he knew there wanted to leave the country. He said the only hope for Iraqi Christians is for Western countries to open their doors to Christian Iraqi refugees.

“We don’t have hope,” he said. “If these doors aren’t opened, we will be killed.”

Since October, violence in Mosul has pushed more than 12,000 Christians from their homes and left more than two dozen dead, according to U.N. and Christian organizations. In the face of Mosul violence, Iraqi Christians flee to Turkey before settling permanently in another country, usually in a place where their family has gone out before them.

 

Christian Sisters Killed

Weeks after the mass exodus of Mosul Christians to surrounding villages, Turkey and other nations, around one-third of families reportedly have returned due to the presence of 35,000 army and police and the Iraqi government offering cash grants of up to $800.

But those returning Christians were shaken again on Wednesday (Nov. 12), when Islamic militants stormed into the house of two Syrian Catholic sisters, Lamia’a Sabih and Wala’a Saloha, killing them and severely injuring their mother. They then bombed their house and detonated a second explosive when the police arrived, which killed three more.

The Christian family had recently returned after having fled Mosul. Many believe this attack will deter other Christians from returning to Mosul, and there are reports of Christians again leaving the area.

There has been a steady exodus of Christians from Iraq since the first Gulf War in 1991. The church in Iraq dates from the beginning of Christianity, but the population has plummeted by 50 percent in the last 20 years. The outflow of Iraqi Christians spiked in 2003 following the U.S.-led invasion.

Although Iraq as a whole has seen a dramatic decrease in violence due to last year’s surge in U.S. troops, the flight of Christians to Turkey has grown. One-third of the 18,000 refugees who registered in Turkey last year are from Iraq. In Syria, an estimated 40 percent of the 1.2 million Iraqis who have fled Iraq are Christians, though they make up only about 3 percent of Iraq’s population.

Monsignor Francois Yakan, the 50-year-old leader of the Chaldean Church in Turkey, said all Iraqi refugees are undergoing hardships regardless of religion, but that the situation is especially difficult for Christians since there is less support for them in Turkey.

“Muslims have the same difficulty as Christians, but there are more foundations to assist them,” he said. “The government notices Muslim immigrants, but nobody pays attention to us.”

Yakan travels to other countries to raise awareness of the plight of Iraqi Christians, trying to marshal the support of government and church leaders – last week he traveled to France, Romania and Germany. If Western governments don’t wake up to this crisis, he said, the results could be catastrophic.

“People don’t know the plight of Iraqi Christians. They have no government, no soldiers, and no power,” he said. “Christianity in Iraq is ending. Why aren’t they noticing this?”

 

Strangers in Strange Land

The unnamed Iraqi refugee in Tarlabasi said not even pleas from Iraqi priests can make them stay.

“The church in Iraq can’t stop the people from leaving because they can’t guarantee their security,” he said.

He came to Istanbul with his family but still has an adult son and daughter in the city. He hopes to join his brother in the United States soon.

A group of Iraqi refugees at a tea shop in the Kurtulus area of Istanbul interrupted their card game to talk to Compass of their troubled lives.

“We can’t find any work,” said Baghdad-born Iraqi Jalal Toma, who acted as the translator for the group. He pointed to a young man at the table and said, “He works moving boxes and carrying things, and they pay him half as much as a Turk for a day’s work.”

All of the men are Chaldean Christians, a Catholic Eastern-rite church whose historical homeland is in northern Iraq, and came from Mosul in recent months. They are chronically under-employed and rely on financial help from family members abroad to make ends meet.

They had to flee their homes at a moment’s notice, taking along their families but leaving behind their cars, houses and most of their possessions. The men hope to join family members who live in foreign countries, but they harbor few hopes that they can ever return to Iraq again.

 

Offering Relief

Work is scarce for refugees and hard to come by legally in Turkey. To survive, most Iraqi Christians rely on money from families abroad or the handful of local church charities that struggle to keep up with the overwhelming volume of refugees, such as the Istanbul Interparish Migrant Program, an ecumenical umbrella group that unites the city’s parishes to assist migrants and asylum seekers.

Another such charity is Kasdar, the Chaldean-Assyrian-Syriac Humanitarian, Social and Cultural Organization, run by Yakan, the Chaldean Church leader in Turkey.

He launched Kasdar two years ago to provide a safety net for Christian refugees who live in Turkey’s legal limbo. Kasdar assists all Christians regardless of denomination or faith tradition and has 16 volunteers from an equally diverse background.

Yakan sees thousands of refugees pass through Istanbul each year. Most of them are Chaldean, and he knows of 60-70 people who fled due to the recent October violence in Mosul. He travels constantly to visit Chaldean refugees scattered throughout the country.

When refugees first arrive in Turkey, they must register with the United Nations as asylum seekers. The Turkish police then assign them to one of 35 cities to live in as they wait to receive official refugee status. These Christians face the biggest hardships since they don’t have access to the same social resources as refugees in Istanbul, said Metin Corabatir, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees spokesman in Turkey.

“The Chaldean population faces problems in Turkey, especially due to the policy of resettling them to satellite cities,” said Corabatir. “The Chaldeans in Istanbul have NGOs [Non-Governmental Organizations] and churches to help them, but in satellite cities there is no church or community to help them.”

Most refugees send their children to school at a local center run by Caritas, a Catholic confederation of relief, development and social service organizations. Here, Iraq children receive education and lessons in basic vocational skills.

The wait for legal status can be as short as a few months or a couple of years. But complicated circumstances can push back the wait to five years, 10 years, or even 17 years – as it is now for a man who fled during the first Gulf War, Yakan of the Chaldean Church said.

Another church leader who has helped Christian refugees is 70-year-old Monsignor Yusuf Sag, vicar general of the Syrian Catholic Church in Turkey. His 350-person congregation assembles packets of clothes and food for the refugees.

Many who come to Sag also seek medical help. He has connections with doctors throughout the city, both Muslim and Christian, who offer basic treatment to refugees free of charge. Sag said he tries to help all who come to him, without asking them of their denomination or even their religion.

“Their situation is not a Christian problem, but a human problem,” he said.

Often Iraqi Christians work illegally, where they are vulnerable to extortion. Refugee workers in Istanbul said registered asylum seekers can work legally, but it is not uncommon for employers to garnish their wages or withhold them completely, with the foreigners getting little protection from police.

The Turkish government charges a refugee a residence tax of US$460 a year and will not allow them to leave the country until it is paid, making them remain in the country even longer. With all these hurdles to finding stable employment, many Iraqi refugees are never too far from homelessness.

“There was a family we found living on the streets – a husband, wife and two children,” Yakan said. “They have lived in Istanbul for six months and couldn’t even afford to pay rent.”

His foundation found the family an apartment and assisted them with rent, but they only have enough resources to help for two months.

Kasdar gave similar assistance to 54 families in October. But the organization can only help for a few months at a time and assist the most vulnerable refugees.

Report from Compass Direct News

Rudd Labor Off and Running … Liberals???


The Kevin Rudd Labor government is off and running, even though the government is yet to be sworn in. In what can only be described as very hopeful and wonderful signs of a pro-active government to come, Kevin Rudd and his newly formed ministry have hit the road running in almost every major policy area. The Rudd Labor government looks set to keep faith with the electorate by implementing each and every promise it made in the election campaign as quickly as possible.

Perhaps of even greater significance is the new government’s determination to meet every issue facing the nation head on, with a very strong emphasis of getting down and dirty with the nation as it seeks to meet the many problems that currently face it, including homelessness and indigenous affairs. Labor MPs are being urged very strongly by Prime Minister elect Kevin Rudd, to become intimately familiar with the problems facing Australia by getting in amongst the issues by visiting the homeless, aged care facilities, etc. These visits are not to be photo ops, but fact finding missions with a view to finding solutions for the problems facing Australia.

The doubters of Kevin Rudd must surely be very impressed with his approach to government thus far and the determination being shown by Labor in government to make a real difference and improvement in Australia for all. Kevin Rudd the man is now standing out for all of Australia to see and we watch with interest to learn more and watch his development as Prime Minister. The test of the man and leader is surely yet to come, as adversity will bring out the true character of Kevin Rudd – but he is certainly of to a great start. 

There is renewed hope for Australia’s future like there hasn’t been for many years – these are very interesting and exciting times to be Australian.

For the Liberal Party however it is more of the same it seems with the new leadership team sounding like the same party that was so soundly turned put of office in the recent national poll. John Howard, Peter Costello and co may all be gone, but the same tired rhetoric and sentiment seems to remain. It would appear that on current form a spell in the political wilderness beckons for the Liberal/National Party opposition, along with many leadership tensions and an inability to move on.