Make homelessness an election priority: Major parties told

Australia’s major political parties have been issued a challenge to put homelessness back at the top of the federal election campaign agenda and agree to fund a long-term partnership to halving the rate of homelessness by 2020.

Australia’s Councils of Social Service (COSS), representing all states and territories, have called on Prime Minister Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott to stand by the federal government’s commitment made in 2008 to halve the number of homeless Australians, estimated to be more than 100,000 individuals each night.

While the COSS network has welcomed the federal and state governments’ agreement for an interim 12-month funding for the National Partnership Agreement on Housing and Homelessness, until 30 June 2014, it remains concerned that such a short-term approach cannot capitalise on the momentum of the past three years.

“A long-term approach is critical if we are to truly tackle homelessness and provide safe and secure homes for all Australians,” the network said.

“We are united in our urging for the Federal Government to commit to a four-year partnership now with the country’s state and territory governments.

“We acknowledge Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s vision and leadership shown in putting homelessness squarely on the agenda in 2008, but we now challenge Australian political parties to carry on these intentions with clear and concise actions.”

The Australian Council of Social Services’ (ACOSS) annual Australian Community Sector Survey recently revealed just how critical the issue of homelessness is across every state and territory in the country, with 66 per cent of housing and homelessness services nationwide reporting that they are struggling to meet demand.

On Homeless Persons’ Week, the COSS network is advocating for a number of actions from the Federal Government in relation to the issue of homelessness, including:
• funding for a further four years for the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness
• making the National Rental Affordability Scheme permanent and immediately provide 50,000 new incentives
• committing to an affordable housing growth fund
• lifting the level of Commonwealth Rent Assistance and reviewing its effectiveness, and
• increasing funding for homelessness services to match need.

“Addressing homelessness involves more than just having a roof over someone’s head,” the network said. Having safe, affordable and accessible housing and the appropriate support, is critical, so individuals and families have the foundation from which to build a solid and fulfilling future.”

Media Contacts:
Fernando de Freitas (ACOSS) – 0419 626 155
Susan Helyar (ACTCOSS) – 0448791987
Alison Peters (NCOSS) – 0425 231 814
Karen Murphy (QCOSS) – 0423 245 252
Marnie Round (SACOSS) – 0423 767 015
Kath McLean (TasCOSS) – 0439 322 350 
John Kelly (VCOSS) – 0418 127 153