Addressing homelessness in response to COVID-19

On any given night in Australia, one in every 200 people are homeless. That is 116,000 Australians who recorded in 2016 on census night that they do not have secure housing. These are sobering statistics and numbers that are only set to increase.

This year the drastic measures undertaken to contain COVID-19, including the rehousing of rough sleepers, has highlighted the essential need and basic human right for everyone to have a secure place to go to. The pandemic has created an opportunity for us to come together and start to change our housing system so that we can all be guaranteed a roof over our heads.

We want to continue to shine a light on homelessness and work towards creating sustainable solutions to this complex problem, including:

  1. Continuing to raise awareness of homelessness with people outside the usual circles and existing sector supporters.

The health crisis has certainly elevated action on rough sleepers- however these are just the visibly homeless, not those couch surfing or those living in overcrowded dwellings. The general public, corporates and industries outside our own can have aligned interests, important connections and perspectives as well as great influence in sharing the story and building support.

Throughout the pandemic, we have witnessed overwhelming support from Australia’s leading economists and many of the “unusual suspects” who wanted to see a social and affordable housing led economic recovery. This media coverage and increased public support has no doubt helped Victoria’s recent historic investment in social housing get over the line. We need much more of it and we don’t want to lose the momentum we have.

  1. Creating an affordable housing delivery model that is coordinated, strategic, and ongoing– that is delivered in partnership with all levels of government.

We understand the critical role the federal and state government can play, but local government land can also offer a huge boost or in-kind support through planning system reprieves. We need to see funding delivered based on a bipartisan national housing strategy with the recognition that homelessness is everybody’s problem and it’s in everybody’s interests to get together and solve it as a team.

  1. Developing better integration between the housing, homelessness and support service systems.

This ensures that people in need of a home can access the type of home that is appropriate for their needs. A home that has the right supports at the right time to assist them to live successfully and with dignity, and start to build independence, wellbeing and inclusion.

Every Australian deserves the opportunity to have a safe and secure place to call home. The changes we need to make are not necessarily simple to achieve. However, if we have learnt one thing from COVID it must be that what at one time seemed impossible, can be achieved when there is necessity and the will to do it.


Originally published in the Committee for Brisbane newsletter.