Western NSW Community Legal Centre has called for sweeping changes to address the scourge of homelessness in regional, rural and remote communities.
In response to the 2020 Federal Government Inquiry into Homelessness, the Dubbo-based centre made 16 recommendations aimed at tackling the crippling social, economic and health problem.
The submission focussed on three specific groups – victim-survivors of family and domestic violence, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and people exiting incarceration – with particular emphasis on western NSW.
While urban homelessness, with visible “rough sleepers” in capital cities, attracts more funding and services, 60% of the nation’s homeless population lives outside metropolitan areas. In fact, more than 90% of Australia’s homeless do not live on the street. “Invisible homelessness” is the most prevalent and includes: dwellings that are insecure or inadequate (for example, because of overcrowding); housing which is temporary or has no tenure; or accommodation that does not allow residents to have control or access to space for social interaction (for example, visitors are not allowed).
Generalist Solicitor Hannah Robinson notes: “While it is too early to comment on the impact that COVID-19 has had on homelessness, (it) has highlighted the increased social, economic and health risks that homeless people face...
“Only by (taking action) can the Federal Government successfully meet its international obligations to protect and promote the universal rights of all persons, including the right to safe and secure housing.”