When I was growing up there was almost no homelessness. If you were homeless then you were probably an ageing male who drank too much, and you had been caught between shelters, or in some cases, you chose sleeping rough over the sometimes stifling rules in those shelters.
Things are very different today. At the 2016 census 116,000 were sleeping rough on census night, and that figure continues to grow. It was probably an understatement, as couch-surfers and temporary house-guests were not officially counted as homeless.
There are a number of reasons why the numbers are going up – women and children fleeing family violence, young people unemployed and unable to afford rent, debt, disability, the scourge of methamphetamine use are all contributing to the rise in numbers. In many cases support services are required, the most expensive of which is crisis housing, in hotels, motels, caravan parks etc.
There is a solution however. And governments of all shades are ignoring it. Build public, low-cost housing, and most of the problem will go away. Public housing provision, by state and federal governments, both Labor and Liberal, has fallen to its lowest level in 40 years. However the issue of cost always rears its head at these moments.
So the release of a report by McKell Institute today concluded the primary benefit of Labor’s Housing Affordability policy, while costing $6.6 billion, could save $10.8 billion over ten years. Some of the benefits would be improved health and employment outcomes, and a greater sense of safety, independence and social connectedness. “However, the economic co-benefit of the investment is sizeable.”PwC
The Institute cites new modelling by PwC that moving each person from crisis accommodation will save $11,935 per year, per person, through reduced use of government services including health services, welfare, police and prisons. So, not only beneficial, but saves money.
In a country of such wealth it is an absolute disgrace that children are living in cars and under bridges, while we provide million dollar facilities to already wealthy sporting clubs, and waste more money on refurbishing Christmas Island for imaginary patients who never turned up.
So what is the hold-up? Winter is coming! It is about time our governments actually did their one job, which is to provide necessary services, using our money, which they hold in trust. You know, our taxes.