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COVID has shown us we know how to end homelessness – but latest homelessness stats show that we are failing to do this 

7 December 2021

Homelessness services in NSW experienced ongoing high demand due to the impact of the 2020 COVID lockdown – data released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows.

In 2020/2021 over 70,500 clients were supported by homelessness services in New South Wales. This is 25% more clients than they are funded for, and they continue to be stretched to the seams as they recover from COVID lockdowns.

NSW homelessness services have the highest level of unmet need in Australia. Of the 47,000 clients needing accommodation less than half received crisis accommodation and only 25% were able to obtain long term accommodation.

But, as shown in both lockdowns – when people are provided with accommodation they largely stay housed: in 2020/2021 the number of clients sleeping rough has decreased, likely due to investment in the Together Home rough sleeper program, and 90% of clients at risk of homelessness supported by services maintain their housing

“Once again the AIHW data confirms what we already know – that without significant investment in social housing by the Federal and State Governments the unsustainable demand for homelessness services will continue”. said Katherine McKernan, CEO of Homelessness NSW.

Both COVID lockdowns have shown that the NSW Government can end homelessness if it wants to – it requires investment in accommodation and support to help people stay in that accommodation – during both lockdowns the NSW Government has invested in additional resources to keep people experiencing homelessness safe and well in accommodation. If we can do it in moments of crisis there is no reason we cannot do it permanently.

We are again calling on the NSW Government to invest in at least 5,000 new social houses every year for the next 10 years just to meet current demand.”

Domestic violence continues to remain a leading reason for seeking assistance. The recent announcement of $484 million over 4 years to reconfigure crisis refuges and to support children is welcome, however, action is urgently required to invest in the in providing safe and affordable housing for women and children escaping domestic and family violence. The AIHW data shows a continued increase in the number of clients seeking assistance due to domestic and family violence with over 28,000 people seeking assistance in 2020/21.

‘Homelessness NSW welcomes the additional funding into the crisis end of the service system, however, without investment in safe and affordable housing the services will continue to have to meet high demand with limited long term options.

It is evident that the economic impacts of COVID-19 will continue to affect people at risk of homelessness in the coming months and we anticipate seeing an increase women and children fleeing domestic and family violence. Without adequate housing services will continue to be unable to provide what all clients need and that is a safe and affordable home.”

Quick Facts

In 2020/21 approximately:

  • 70,600 clients were supported by homelessness services (38% increase since 2014 NSW Govt reforms)
  • Approx 28,000 clients were escaping domestic and family violence (40% of all clients)
  • Approx 13,500 clients were unaccompanied young people aged 15 – 24 (19% of all clients)
  • Approx 31% of all clients were Aboriginal
  • 51% of clients did not receive crisis accommodation despite requesting it
  • 59% of clients who were homeless prior to accessing a service had no long term accommodation or housing at the end of support
  • Homelessness services are funded to support around 58,000 clients, yet in 2020/21 provided a service to over 70,300 clients, supporting 25% more clients than they are funded for.

Further information

Katherine McKernan CEO Homelessness NSW – 0425 288 446

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