Ba­sic hous­ing is a hu­man right

Southern Telegraph - - Opinion - Dawn Jecks Safety Bay

In re­sponse to re­cent re­ports and let­ters in the Sound Tele­graph re­gard­ing the pro­posed change of use for Penola House to com­mu­nity use (Home­less ac­com­mo­da­tion, 26/9), I would like to air my thoughts.

I be­lieve that ba­sic hous­ing is a hu­man right and that ac­cess to se­cure hous­ing is a key fac­tor to good health as well as be­ing an es­sen­tial pre­con­di­tion for so­cial par­tic­i­pa­tion.

End­ing home­less­ness has many ben­e­fits, not just to those who find a home but also to the wider com­mu­nity and to gov­ern­ment.

Alarm­ingly, how­ever, Aus­tralian Bu­reau of Sta­tis­tics 2016 Cen­sus data re­vealed a 4.6 per cent in­crease in the rate of home­less­ness over the five-year pe­riod.

Home­less­ness af­fects many Aus­tralians. Ac­cord­ing to the Cen­sus data around one in ev­ery 200 peo­ple in Aus­tralia are home­less, with sig­nif­i­cant in­creases over the past five years in the num­ber of older Aus­tralians ex­pe­ri­enc­ing home­less­ness.

Us­ing linked health and hous­ing data from WA, Aus­tralian Hous­ing and Ur­ban Re­search In­sti­tute re­search pub­lished in 2016 found that pro­vid­ing hous­ing for pri­or­ity home­less clients was as­so­ci­ated with a greatly re­duced use of health ser­vices in the fol­low­ing year.

This re­sulted in a po­ten­tial cost sav­ing of $16.4 mil­lion per year — or $4846 per per­son per year — to the WA health sys­tem.

Cost sav­ings re­sult­ing from this suc­cess­ful hous­ing and home­less­ness pro­gram al­lowed for more re­sources to be freed up in the health sys­tem to meet the needs for all.

There is much to gain in eco­nomic and so­cial terms, both for gov­ern­ment and so­ci­ety, by as­sist­ing the home­less.

This is be­cause if home­less in­di­vid­u­als find sta­ble ac­com­mo­da­tion they re­quire less health­care and they are more likely to re­con­nect with em­ploy­ment and ed­u­ca­tion.

With the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment hav­ing slashed fund­ing to home­less­ness pro­grams over re­cent years it is com­fort­ing to see or­gan­i­sa­tions like St Pa­trick’s step­ping up to the plate.

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