Media Release by The Hon Brendan O’Connor MP

Learning the lessons – Tackling homelessness in New York City

Minister for Housing and Homelessness Brendan O’Connor today visited Bowery Mission in New York City to see first-hand how the innovative service is tackling homelessness.

Mr O’Connor met Bowery Mission President and CEO, Edward Morgan, to share ideas and find out more about the Mission’s approach to reducing and preventing homelessness.

His visit followed a visit in September by Tim Mathieson to the service, the oldest refuge in New York.

“Breaking the cycle of homelessness involves more than putting a roof over someone’s head,” Mr O’Connor said.

“It requires a strong focus on prevention and early intervention, as well as a holistic approach that not only helps people secure a place to call home, but also helps them get their lives back on track.

“That is exactly the approach that Bowery Mission takes, and seeing their remarkable achievements first hand was fascinating.

“Bowery Mission has been helping people who are homeless for more than 130 years and, after the devastation of Superstorm Sandy, accommodated and fed three times its usual clients.

“Last year, Bowery Mission provided almost 370,000 meals, and more than 30,000 bags of groceries, 79,000 nights of shelter, and 53,000 articles of clothing.

“But Bowery Mission is much more than an emergency service—it gives people the tools to transform their own lives by helping them reach their education and work goals, and to tackle other issues they face, such as alcohol and substance misuse.

“The Mission also has a strong focus on prevention through its children’s program, which provides mentoring and help with educational opportunities, and takes at-risk kids to summer camp each year, to escape the harshness of inner-city living.”

Mr O’Connor said the United States and Australia share a strong desire to reduce homelessness through prevention, early intervention, and by providing strong, timely and integrated service responses when people need help.

“Federal Labor has invested an unprecedented $20 billion in housing and homelessness services and programs since coming to office,” Mr O’Connor said

“For the past four years, in partnership with the States and Territories, we have funded homelessness services across the nation. This agreement is due to expire at the end of this financial year.

“Last month, all jurisdictions agreed in principle to provide funding to keep these services open for another 12 months while we negotiate a new long-term partnership.

“All Australians deserve a safe, secure home, and we will continue to work to provide affordable housing for Australia’s most vulnerable people.”