SCOTT LUDLAM says new “shocking figures” about homelessness should be a wake-up call for the Abbott government to fund shelters that turn hundreds away each day.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare released a report Tuesday which shows 417 people are denied entry into homeless services every day around Australia.
Senator Ludlam—who faces a battle to retain his Senate seat at an extraordinary election in the new year—says the government must declare whether it plans to fund the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness, which expires in June.
“The National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness has seen no commitment and no action from the Abbott government,” he says.
“If the government continues to ignore pleas for action to renegotiate the agreement more than 180 vital homeless services will have no funding and many could be forced to shut their doors.
“More than 244,000 Australians accessed specialist homeless services in the 2012-13 period—a jump of three per cent over the previous year.
“Those same people now face a bleak Christmas knowing that by winter, when the cold sets in, they might not be able to access any emergency assistance.”
St Patrick’s Community Centre CEO Steve McDermott says more people than ever are knocking on their door looking for food and shelter.
“We have certainly noticed a few new faces,” he told the Herald.
“At our Christmas lunch last week we had the highest number of people for years. And we’ve certainly had an increase of people looking for food assistance.”
Mr McDermott says a number of St Pat’s programs are funded under NPAH: “If we didn’t get funding for those programs, it would severely impact on those programs.”
South metropolitan Greens MLC Lynn MacLaren describes as “alarming” the lack of formal talks between the federal and state governments on future funding for the NPAH.
She notes WA mental health minister Helen Morton acknowledged in parliament last week the homeless sector would be impacted if the NPAH were to be cut.
“I urge federal and state ministers to act urgently to secure funding and programs to help those who need it most this Christmas,” Ms MacLaren says. “The government is turning its back on thousands of our most vulnerable people; we do not want these services disappearing by next winter”.
by BRENDAN FOSTER