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Media Release by Senator the Hon Mark Arbib

Recognising the Human Face of Homelessness: National Homeless Persons’ Week

The Australian Government today marked the beginning of National Homeless Persons’ Week by calling for better community understanding about homelessness.

Minister for Social Housing and Homelessness Mark Arbib, ACT Minister for Community Services Joy Burch, Homelessness Australia and the Youth Coalition of the ACT today launched National Homeless Persons’ Week in Canberra.

The theme this year is My Address which is about recognising the diversity of homelessness experiences in Australia.

“Many people think homelessness is largely confined to single middle-aged men sleeping in parks and battling alcohol or drug addictions,” Senator Arbib said.

“Homelessness has many faces in Australia and unfortunately all too often unpredictable events can occur.

“Loss of a job, mental illness, family breakdown, domestic violence, lack of affordable housing or an accident that results in physical impairment – there are many pathways into homelessness.

“Of the estimated 105,000 Australians that are homeless, around 16,000 are sleeping rough every night.”

Senator Arbib said the Australian Government is committed to an ambitious, long-term plan to halve the rate of homelessness and offer supported accommodation to all those who seek it by 2020.

“We have set targets for 2013 to reduce homelessness by 20 per cent making sure that we are on track to reach the 2020 target,” Senator Arbib said.

“Governments around Australia are making a difference – in South Australia there was a 47 per cent increase in homeless people receiving support from July 2010 to March 2011, a fantastic result.

“The Australian Government has invested $5 billion in additional funding in homelessness since 2008 and we are continuing to forge strong partnerships with the community sector, states and territories, and the private sector.

“Thousands of new houses have been built for those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness and more than 180 new or expanded services have been rolled out across the country.

“In addition, the Australian Government is delivering around 80,000 additional affordable and social housing dwellings. Of the 19,600 social housing homes under the stimulus plan, almost 15,000 have been completed.

“Our focus as a Government is on providing housing and outreach services to connect people with the services they need and preventing homelessness from occurring in the first place.”

Senator Arbib also thanked Homelessness Australia, National Shelter, the Prime Minister’s Council on Homelessness and the many organisations around the country that provide invaluable input to homelessness policy in Australia.

“Too often their hard work goes unrecognised and they deserve our sincere gratitude for their dedication,” Senator Arbib said.

“Australians experiencing homelessness are benefiting as a result of the strong partnership between Government and the community sector.

“We are helping to give so many people hope and a foundation upon which to build their future.”