22 July 2020
Dear Prime Minister,
We write to you regarding the urgent situation concerning homeless people sleeping rough and COVID-19. Australia has led the world in its crisis response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This included an extraordinary achievement in temporarily sheltering an estimated more than 7,000 homeless people who were either sleeping rough or at risk of sleeping rough in the first eight weeks of the pandemic alone.
This makes up a significant proportion of the total number of homeless people currently sleeping rough in Australia which, according to the last census, was approximately 8,200 people.
This phenomenal effort represents one of the most significant homelessness responses Australia has ever seen, but it is only a first step. While temporarily sheltering people sleeping rough has been an important pandemic 'crisis response', it will not be an effective 'recovery response’.
An effective recovery response needs to take into account that if we want people to follow public health directives relating to social distancing, personal hygiene and staying home if unwell, then we must recognise that none of this can be achieved without a home.
Tipping people back onto the streets simply cannot be an option. Without urgent action, it will be the only option for too many people.
We call on your government to lead the development of a COVID-19 National Response Plan for Homeless People Sleeping Rough, which must include investments to:
- Maintain current crisis responses for people sleeping rough for as long as is necessary
- Rapidly house and support people who have been temporarily sheltered – including through the use of medium-term private rental subsidies
- Support community efforts to better meet, track and help prevent future rough sleeping homelessness through improved coordination of housing and support services
- Build more social housing in Australia and provide the needed supports, including dedicated supportive housing initiatives
- Ensure income support payments are adequate.
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