Australia is in the midst of a homelessness crisis. Across some major cities, the number of people without a permanent roof over their heads has risen sharply. In Melbourne, homeless camps on CBD streets is a common sight, with mattresses, blankets, boxes and other items piled high in many doorways and in front of shops.
According to Street Smart Australia, there are approximately 105,237 homeless people- may of whom are either sleeping rough, couch surfing or sleeping in their cars. About 25 per cent of homeless people are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, despite making up just 2.5 per cent of the general population. Experts also say that migrants and people from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse backgrounds are also likely to face homelessness for a range of reasons, including a lack of culturally appropriate support services.
But does it have to be this way? Can we solve homelessness?
Jenny Smith, chief executive of Council to Homeless Persons, says it’s absolutely possible to eliminate one huge cause of homelessness: a lack of affordable housing.
“If you plan to have housing that people on the lowest incomes can afford, then you don’t really need to have homelessness at all.”
“I think it’s eminently solvable,” Smith tells SBS. “If you plan to have housing that people on the lowest incomes can afford, then you don’t really need to have homelessness at all.
“I think we’ll always have some people falling into homelessness but what it needs to be a brief and one-off experience, not this ongoing, crazy roundabout of temporary accommodation that people currently have.”
She also believes we need to attack one root cause of homelessness: the housing crisis and a recent reduction in the amount of emergency accommodation available.
“In the past 30 years, we decided that we could leave housing to market forces. Governments have got out of providing subsidised public housing and we’re seeing the end product now.”