Increased access to housing, support for people sleeping rough and improved collaboration with other organisations are among the top priorities in the City of Sydney’s new homelessness action plan.
The City was the first council in Australia with a dedicated homelessness unit and has been assisting people sleeping rough in the inner city for over 30 years. The City currently allocates $2.2 million per year to fund homelessness support operations and specialist homelessness services. From 2018 to 2020, the City also provided $3.5 million to the NSW Government to fund specialist homelessness services in the inner city.
Lord Mayor Clover Moore said no one should be homeless, especially in a prosperous city like Sydney.
“Despite Australia’s thriving economy, almost one million Australians are living in housing stress, and like other global cities around the world, we face a homelessness crisis,” the Lord Mayor said.
“During the pandemic, we have worked with the State Government, local organisations and peak bodies to get people off the streets and into secure housing. And when the pandemic passes, we want to ensure people have pathways to housing and don’t return to the streets.
“The pandemic has emphasised how important our homes are, and we want to build on the increased support offered to our vulnerable communities through this period to break the cycle of homelessness once and for all.
“Homelessness is a complex issue with no single cause and no single solution, and it especially acute in the inner city, where the crisis is driven by high rents, a lack of affordable rental housing and inadequate social housing.
“This plan brings together our long standing work to support this vulnerable community and cements our commitment to collaborating with government agencies and the homelessness sector to prevent and respond to this growing crisis.”
The homelessness action plan sets the following priorities:
• monitor trends in inner-city homelessness
• increase access to safe and sustainable housing and support
• support people sleeping rough while also managing public spaces
• work smarter with other organisations to have a greater impact.
The City has also developed a new policy and guidelines for mobile voluntary services operating in its local area. These services provide food and other services like showers, blankets and clothing to people in need.
The policy and guidelines were developed with other government agencies and support networks and with feedback from local business and residents.
They are informed by research the City commissioned in 2019 on how these services could more effectively support the city’s most vulnerable people.
Researchers interviewed 21 mobile voluntary service operators and 112 people who access these services.
The research found mobile voluntary services were meeting a key need in the local area, providing at least 4,400 services a week (including meals and blankets).
Almost half of the people surveyed who said they use these services reported they were experiencing homelessness, and 46 per cent reported they live in social housing.
The new guidelines set clear expectations about the service delivery principles mobile voluntary services should follow when planning and providing services.
Under the guidelines, mobile voluntary services will be expected to operate in ways that are safe, targeted, and respect service users. The services are to offer safe, clean and nutritious food and provide people with relevant information about specialised services.
They also ensure mobile voluntary services minimise their impacts on local residents and businesses, follow rules on parking, noise and waste, and obtain permits where needed.