Let’s be the first to end home­less plight

The Advertiser - - OPINION - SANDY VER­SCHOOR SANDY VER­SCHOOR IS THE LORD MAYOR OF ADE­LAIDE

OVER the past few weeks, we have wit­nessed an ex­tra­or­di­nary re­sponse by our State Gov­ern­ment to the COVID-19 pan­demic to en­sure the safety of some of our most vul­ner­a­ble – those who have been sleep­ing rough on our city streets are now be­ing housed and sup­ported in ho­tels and mo­tels.

I sin­cerely thank Pre­mier Steven Mar­shall and Hu­manSer­vices Min­is­ter Michelle Lensink for this swift and in­no­va­tive re­sponse. How­ever, I can’t help but won­der what hap­pens next? Where will those peo­ple go after we lift re­stric­tions and life re­turns to a post COVID re­al­ity?

Home­less­ness is not a new is­sue, and it can hap­pen to any­one. Many peo­ple who have faced or are fac­ing po­ten­tial home­less­ness are just like you or me. They be­long to fam­i­lies, many have worked in good jobs, and they’ve had hopes and am­bi­tions for their fu­ture – but some­where along the way, events in their lives have dis­rupted them.

Home­less­ness is not just peo­ple sleep­ing rough on the streets; 7 per cent of peo­ple ex­pe­ri­enc­ing home­less­ness in Aus­tralia sleep rough.

The other 93 per cent are in in­se­cure short-term ac­com­mo­da­tion, board­ing houses, couch-surf­ing with fam­ily or friends, sleep­ing in their cars and other such cir­cum­stances.

For cities, re­duc­ing the num­ber of peo­ple who are home­less has be­come one of the key goals in the pur­suit for strong, in­clu­sive and eq­ui­table com­mu­ni­ties. It makes so­cial, cul­tural and eco­nomic sense.

Most im­por­tantly, it is the right thing to do. Ev­ery­body in our com­mu­nity should have a safe place to live. The lack of af­ford­able rental hous­ing and the long wait lists for so­cial hous­ing – al­most 200,000 na­tion­ally – is a key con­tribut­ing fac­tor, a clear sign that af­ford­able and so­cial hous­ing pro­grams are not work­ing for those who need them most.

Home­less­ness is com­plex, yet we know a great deal on how to pre­vent it.

Hous­ing is the an­swer – pro­vide safe, short-term and per­ma­nent ac­com­mo­da­tion along with wrap-around health and sup­port ser­vices.

Pre­vent­ing and ad­dress­ing home­less­ness re­quires hous­ing in­no­va­tion across the spec­trum.

This re­quires lead­er­ship from all three lev­els of gov­ern­ment, along with the col­lab­o­ra­tion of the home­less­ness and hous­ing sec­tors to cre­ate change.

The City of Ade­laide is com­mit­ted to end­ing street home­less­ness in our city. To­gether with the State Gov­ern­ment, we are ma­jor part­ners in the Ade­laide Zero Project, a col­lec­tive-im­pact ini­tia­tive in­volv­ing more than 30 or­gan­i­sa­tions, all with the com­mon goal to end street home­less­ness in the CBD.

Af­ford­able and so­cial hous­ing pro­grams are not work­ing for those who need them most

Ev­ery­body has a role to play – res­i­dents, so­cial ser­vices, gov­ern­ment, de­vel­op­ers and busi­nesses.

We are a city of firsts, unique and au­then­ti­cally Aus­tralian, with an ab­so­lute de­ter­mi­na­tion to do what’s right.

Let’s be the first city to end home­less­ness.

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