Census data released this week shows an increase in homelessness in Australia to 116,427 people, including 43,552 (39%) under 25.

This is an rise of 13.7% since 2011, exceeding population growth of 8.8%.

“One in five people who are homeless are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.  Inadequate incomes and unaffordable housing are forcing people into homelessness, as shown by today’s figures. Children with their parents, young people, workers, and older people are living in cars, in boarding houses and on other people’s couches”

ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie.

Yet at the same time charities have been highly active in reducing homelessness where they can and in reducing its effects. This decade over 800,000 people have been helped because they were homeless or at risk of homelessness.

“However, charities can only do so much. It is now time for the Federal Government to show real leadership and make some brave decisions to end homelessness in our rich country.”

St Vincent de Paul Society National Council CEO, Dr John Falzon.

The Tasmanian Government, in response to a crisis in housing affordability and a rise in visible homelessness called an emergency summit, bringing together 35 people, for 3 hours on Thursday 15th March to nut it out.

Bethlehem House has been feeling the effects all year of the housing shortage with men stuck in the crisis homelessness shelter, with nowhere to go. 32 men per night living together for a prolonged number of months is not ideal. Crisis accommodation should be short term with appropriate options for people to move onto more sustainable affordable housing.

This month we have been delighted to see three long-term residents move out into community housing. One gentleman had been with us an unprecedented 9 years and had been stuck in the system because of housing and power company debts. It is impossible to obtain a Housing Tasmania property until at least 80% of housing debt and all power debt has been cleared. The system just does not provide an adequate solution for homeless people with a significant debt.

CEO Stephanie Meikle is confident that the Government is well aware of the homelessness backlog and will be working with its community sector partners to find solutions. Bethlehem House itself is an ageing facility battling with inadequate infrastructure, such as shared showers and lack of family meeting spaces but has a reputation for helping homeless men to turn their lives around.