Inquiry into Homelessness

The Pulse Meeting was held to engage the sector and to provide input to the inquiry

The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs has launched an inquiry into homelessness in Australia. It seeks to understand the factors that contribute to people becoming homeless through wide-ranging Terms of Reference.

Shelter WA and the Western Australian Alliance to End Homelessness (WAAEH) are preparing a joint submission for the inquiry. To inform their submission a Pulse Meeting was held to engage the sector and to provide input.

Good representation from the sector

While numbers were down due to concerns over the proliferation of coronavirus a passionate group comprised of people with lived experience of homelessness, homelessness service providers and advocacy organisations attended. The attendees provided valuable input which was captured by Shelter WA’s Consultant, Advocacy and Policy Lisa Kazalac and Executive Officer of the WAAEH, John Berger.

It was decided within the group that parts of the Standing Committee’s Terms of Reference such as ‘the adequacy of the collection and publication of housing, homelessness, and housing affordability related data’ was being covered adequately by the work of the Alliance and would be used in the submission.

Led by Professor Paul Flatau the Director, UWA Centre for Social Impact, his team created an evaluation and outcomes measurement framework which provides a world-class comprehensive, systematic approach to identifying, tracking and reporting on homelessness data.

Deep discussion on the Terms of Reference

It was agreed that there are data sources capturing the number of people experiencing homelessness and the factors contributing to homelessness, attention turned to other parts of the Terms of Reference namely;

  • Services to support people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, including housing assistance, social housing, and specialist homelessness services.

Feedback pointed to the need for better mechanisms to resolving tenancy issues. Organisations like Community Legal Centres (CLC’s) are vastly underfunded. One example was cited where a person became homeless due to a losing their job. The CLC could not assist immediately as low levels of funding and high demand for services has created waiting times of over two weeks. More services need to be available to resolve tenancy issues quickly, so housing is maintained.

It was also identified there needs to be a stronger connection between formal and informal services. In most cases, it is the informal supports who will see and identify people who are experiencing homelessness first. While formal services are well connected, more needs to be done to join up informal supports with the funded services.

Systems surrounding banks need further flexibility such as the ability to negotiate a mortgage to keep people housed.

  • Support and services for people at particular risk of homelessness

Under this reference several cohorts are identified as being at an elevated risk of experiencing homelessness. The group provided feedback on how better to support both Aboriginal Australians and mental health due to the expertise within the group.

Some of the feedback captured was the need to provide better tailored support to an individual. This can be done by separating any support funding allocated from the house to the person. The Independent Living Program (ILP) (run through the Mental Health Commission) is an example where the program is attached to the house. This becomes problematic when a person is no longer considered eligible and then must move. A better system would be for person to stay in their house with the ILP moving onto a different house.

The Alliance and Shelter WA will now put together a joint sector submission with local sector case studies. The Committee is accepting written submissions until Thursday 9 April 2020.

For information on how to make a submission, go to the Making a submission to a Committee Inquiry page.