Let’s fix this cri­sis … now

Mercury (Hobart) - - OPINION -

PEAKER Sue Hickey’s pro­posal to es­tab­lish ship­ping con­tainer “vil­lages” to serve as cri­sis ac­com­mo­da­tion for those who oth­er­wise would be forced to sleep rough ap­pears to have merit.

It’s ex­actly the sort of short-term so­lu­tion to this very real prob­lem that the Mer­cury’s Give Them Shelter cam­paign wants to see de­liv­ered.

Not only could these vil­lages be es­tab­lished within weeks at in­signif­i­cant cost to tax­pay­ers, but Ms Hickey’s pro­posal to in­clude in them space for cri­sis ser­vice providers to set up shop means they could de­liver real out­comes.

But we also ac­knowl­edge that we are no ex­perts when it comes to pro­vid­ing front­line sup­port to our com­mu­nity’s most vul­ner­a­ble.

Per­haps those who are will say the vil­lage pro­posal is too sim­plis­tic, or that it would not work — for what­ever rea­son. If so, fair enough. The point is that at least Ms Hickey is hav­ing a crack. Premier Will Hodg­man and his Cab­i­net should fol­low suit.

As we have now been forced to point out three times in this col­umn over the past week, the ini­tia­tives that Hous­ing Min­is­ter Roger Jaensch has im­ple­mented in this space are wel­come. But they are all — at best — medium to long-term op­tions. There is noth­ing new that the State Gov­ern­ment has yet come up with that helps those at rock bot­tom get through this win­ter.

And this is a gov­ern­ment re­spon­si­bil­ity. It should form a col­lab­o­ra­tive task­force to deal with this cri­sis, to cor­ral the many ideas — and de­liver out­comes. Now. To­day. Don’t de­lay.

As TasCOSS chief ex­ec­u­tive Kym Goodes says, this is now a cri­sis that “re­quires lead­er­ship and a strate­gic ap­proach that moves beyond the cur­rent ‘busi­ness as usual’ op­tions and ini­tia­tives”.

For the Cab­i­net to — so far — ap­par­ently de­cide that there is no need for ur­gent ac­tion on this cri­sis will no doubt leave many in the com­mu­nity agree­ing with Speaker Hickey’s con­clu­sion that the gov­ern­ment just doesn’t “give a sh … t” about help­ing.

The Mer­cury does not sub­scribe to that view. We be­lieve Min­is­ter Jaensch re­ally does want to help. But per­cep­tion in pol­i­tics is re­al­ity. And the per­cep­tion on this is­sue is far from great for the gov­ern­ment.

It is there­fore a good thing that the gov­ern­ment says it is “ac­tively con­sid­er­ing” the pro­pos­als put for­ward by Ms Hickey — both the ship­ping con­tainer vil­lage plan, and what she calls a “com­mu­nity emer­gency hous­ing task­force” charged with co­or­di­nat­ing a re­sponse to the emer­gency hous­ing needs of the com­mu­nity.

It is clear from our re­port­ing to­day that there is much work to be done, not the least of which might be in clear­ing some of the ob­sta­cles stand­ing in the way of a com­mon­sense ap­proach to ad­dress­ing this cri­sis.

Wit­ness the ban on peo­ple liv­ing in car­a­vans on pri­vate prop­erty. Yes, that rule makes sense in nor­mal times. But surely coun­cil officers could be em­pow­ered to turn a blind eye for the next few months.

Mean­while, up in New Nor­folk the Mayor tells us is there is a per­fectly ser­vice­able 30-room fa­cil­ity ly­ing va­cant — but the State Gov­ern­ment says it fails to pass some WH&S rules. Come on. Ridicu­lous!

As we said yes­ter­day, the time for talk is over. As a com­mu­nity we need to act now on home­less­ness — and the gov­ern­ment must lead the way.

The gov­ern­ment should form a col­lab­o­ra­tive task­force to deal with this cri­sis, to cor­ral the ideas — and de­liver out­comes.

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