Homelessness Week

Extract from Hansard - House of Assembly 31 July 2019

I also rise to support this motion as amended by the member for Elder. I thank the member for Mount Gambier for bringing to this place the opportunity to talk about homelessness. Across Australia, this is a very significant social problem that is particularly relevant to me, not only as the member for Adelaide but also as the Minister for Child Protection.

In South Australia, 60 per cent of those who are homeless are male, and 32 percent of all homeless people are aged between 25 and 44 years. It is estimated that 644 homeless people are in the Adelaide city council area right now, in the heart of my electorate. This includes those who are living in severely overcrowded conditions and those who are couch surfers. These are the biggest and fastest growing groups. The definition of 'homelessness' was expanded several years ago to include not only rough sleepers, whom most people identify as being homeless, but also those living in overcrowded conditions and couch surfing in temporary accommodation with friends or family.

In May this year, a recent survey, of rough sleepers living in the inner city area discovered or identified that there were 226 people. These were registered by name, whereas in years before they were not ever recorded by name, as actual people, so that we could identify when they were helped and what help they were getting.

I congratulate the Zero Project group on their wonderful work. They did their first complete study a year ago, in May 2018, with 200 volunteers. That was the first record, by name, of people sleeping rough, so we could really see what difference was being made. While there are now 226 people sleeping rough in the inner city, I note that, since the identification last May, 180 people have actually been housed as part of the Zero Project. I congratulate them. They are doing such a great job and I wish them all the best for the future.

The Specialist Homelessness Services are funded by the South Australian Housing Authority to provide services to those experiencing or at risk of homelessness and domestic and family violence. In 2018-19, 39 providers received a total of $67 million for funding of 81 programs across 99 locations. Sadly, of the 21,402 who accessed SA's Specialist Homelessness Services in 2017-18, 63 per cent were affected by domestic violence, drugs and alcohol, mental health or a combination of all those. These are also the three most common factors when children are removed from their families and enter the child protection system.

Last year, in an effort to improve outcomes across the entire housing continuum, a new Housing and Homelessness Taskforce was established. The task force report, released earlier this month, called for reform of the housing and homelessness system in South Australia and is anticipated to shape a new housing and homelessness strategy in South Australia, which will provide a 10-year plan and guide future funding for the sector.

Within my local community, I work to support various service providers who focus on supporting those vulnerable South Australians facing homelessness. Last year, I enjoyed attending the opening of the St Vincent de Paul Society exhibition, which was part of the SALA Festival. There was an exhibition by Andrew Slattery, highlighting the diversity of people experiencing homelessness in South Australia, the fact that homelessness does not discriminate and the varying reasons that see people turning to shelters and crisis centres for assistance, while raising money for this important cause.

There are many amazing service providers in the city area. Soon after being first elected in 2010, I made it my business to find out what services were available in my electorate because that is predominantly where a lot of the services are provided. Since then, on multiple occasions I have met and worked with people doing wonderful work, such as Catherine House, the Hutt St Centre and The Big Issue, which is helping people to help themselves. Last Sunday, I attended The Big Lunch, which raised $22,000 to support people to help themselves through working and selling The Big Issue. I note that EFTPOS is now accepted, if you are ever cashless and wish to buy The Big Issue; or you can do as I have done in my electorate office and become a subscriber. You can help people help themselves, which is a wonderful cause.

Next week, I will be joining the Hutt St team to Walk a Mile in My Boots to raise awareness and money for homelessness. I encourage anyone listening to register and join in such a great event, which is very popular. There will no doubt be hundreds of people out in the early morning, when it is freezing cold, to get a glimpse of what it is like to be homeless.

Prior to coming into government, I had read research that showed that 30 per cent of children leaving care were homeless within 12 months. To combat this, one of the policies that the Liberal Party took to the 2018 election was to extend foster and kinship carer payments to age 21. I am proud that this commitment was met within my first 100 days and has been fully budgeted and implemented since 1 January 2019.

Already, 17 young people have accessed the payment, four people yet to turn 18 have been referred to the program and more than 100 are set to become eligible over the next three years. With the growth of family-based care and the additional 50 registered primary carers we have recruited over the last financial year to 31 May 2019, I anticipate that more children in care will benefit from these arrangements in years to come.

The Department for Child Protection also works with the CREATE Foundation and Relationships Australia to support those transitioning from care to independent living, and can direct care leavers to apply for the Transition to Independent Living Allowance paid through the commonwealth Department of Social Services.

The Transition to Adult Life Intensive Pilot Program is a program delivering supports to young people aged 15 to 21 in Upper Spencer Gulf who are leaving care. This program involves intensive case management services, peer mentoring and assistance to access education and employment. During the school holidays I was fortunate enough to meet with some of the mentors and mentees and see the wonderful work that they are doing in Whyalla.

It is imperative that the young people in care who are transitioning to independent living have access to these services to support them on their path to adulthood, all key features to equip young people with the life skills necessary to reach their potential and prevent homelessness. I applaud the inroads made by my colleague minister Lensink, from the other house, in the area of homelessness and commend the amended motion to the house.