Homelessness NSW are releasing a report today highlighting the homelessness crisis for people without permanent residency (PR) in Australia, based on interviews with lived experts experiencing homelessness and staff working with this cohort.
The report focuses on the experiences of people in a temporary Emergency Accommodation program which is accommodating people without PR in hotels in inner city Sydney due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In normal circumstances people without PR have no access to social housing or rental support or access to income support and Medicare.
A lived expert contributing to the report, known as Michael has been sleeping rough on trains in NSW for the last seven years. With no permanent residency in Australia, he has no access to Centrelink entitlements or housing and homelessness supports. He has been accommodated in the program and describes the experience as one that enables him to “feel human again”.
Michael said, “I feel like I have a life, I feel normal. I’ve been, making the most the time that I have, I spend a lot of time, you know, going back to libraries where I can look for, you know, use computers, and look for work… And basically, I’m trying as much as possible to reconnect and as soon as possible be on my own legs…”
Unfortunately, the program is not permanent and due to end in January 2022. With many residents unable to work due to ongoing health challenges or no legal work rights, many will return to rough sleeping on trains, parks or in their cars.
Homelessness NSW CEO Katherine McKernan says “It has been a lifechanging experience for many people who may have been sleeping rough for many years to now have a safe place to recover and start to get their life back on track. Ending homelessness support will have a devasting impact for this cohort, who have no safety net and will slide back down the mountain of change they have had to climb over the last four months.”
She says, “we need to urgently prevent re-entry into rough sleeping for this cohort and provide a guaranteed exit plan that provides access to ongoing accommodation, rental subsidies and other supports. Otherwise, people with no permanent residency will continue to be caught within a cycle of homelessness”.