New data released today from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows a worrying increase in the number of people accessing specialist homelessness services across WA, and that services cannot keep up with current demand.
Everyday specialist homelessness services support around 4,300 Western Australians. The data shows this is a deeply gendered problem, with family and domestic violence the leading cause of people accessing services, and women and girls making up 63 per cent of people needing assistance. Also, Aboriginal people are more likely to present to services, reflecting the profound, systemic disadvantage that many First Nations people face. Every day over 1,000 young people and children require homelessness assistance. A cause for deep concern.
Homelessness profoundly affects a person’s mental and physical health, education and employment opportunities. And it is homelessness services that provide a lifeline to people who have fallen on hard times. As a community we are right to be concerned that people facing family and domestic violence, poverty or persistent mental health issues have run out of housing options. With limited affordable private rentals and 14,000 people on the social housing waitlist, the emerging trend is no surprise.
It is not just concerning that thousands of Western Australians need access to homelessness services, but that over sixty requests for assistance are unable to be met every single day. This is a symptom of services being underfunded and stretched thin. And this data only captures the people accessing homelessness services funded by government, not people who access the additional services provided by many agencies to address current need.
So, what’s causing this increase in demand for services?
The lack of social and affordable housing for people on very low and low incomes. The inadequacy and insecurity of income support such as Newstart and Commonwealth Rent Assistance. The lack of sustained investment in homelessness services and services that support people at risk of homelessness.
The solutions to end homelessness are in reach.
By building more social housing, investing in solutions that stop people from becoming homelessness in the first place and investing in homelessness services so people can get assistance tailored to their needs we can end homelessness.
All Paths Lead to a Home: Western Australia’s 10-Year Strategy on Homelessness 2020–2030 highlights the need for reform. Recent State investment in new homelessness initiatives and social housing is a great start. However, the data demonstrates the need for more sustained and significant investment into homelessness services by government to meet current demand.
As we lead into the festive season, homelessness services are gearing up to respond to event more requests for support. What if you or a member of your family needed support in a time of need? How would you feel if you were turned away?
With a budget surplus and thousands of people in need of housing and support Shelter WA urges government to increase investment in social housing and homelessness services so that all people are supported to get their life back on track.
The Specialist Homelessness Services Report can be found here.
For information on the critical resources needed so specialist homelessness services to meet growing community need visit www.yourhelpwa.com.au.
Media Contact: Michelle Mackenzie, CEO of Shelter WA: 0419 931 819.
Lived experience consultants are also available for interview today.
FAST FACTS – WESTERN AUSTRALIA
• Over 4,300 people are supported by specialist homelessness services every day – an increase of 300 people per day since 2018
• Over 1,100 children in families are supported each day
• More young people, 720 per day, are accessing services than ever before
• 37% of people who access services are male and 63% female
• 44% of people who access services are Indigenous people
• 46% of people who access services receive accommodation support
• Around 10% of people that sought help from services were ‘rough sleepers’
• 61 requests for assistance each day are unable to be met
• Top three reasons for people seeking assistance from services are:
o Family and domestic violence
o Financial difficulties
o Relationship or family breakdown
• Over 9,000 people experience homelessness every night across WA
• Over 14,000 are on the wait list for social housing
• 48,000 more social houses are needed today to meet current demand
• SHS agencies deliver a range of services from basic, short-term interventions such as advice and meals, through to more intensive support, such as accommodation, financial advice, counselling and professional legal services.