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Media Release by The Hon Tanya Pibersek MP

ABS report supports Government focus on homelessness

A new report released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) supports the Rudd Labor Government’s focus on finding long term solutions to reduce homelessness.

The number of Australians who sleep rough rose by 16 per cent in the five years between 2001 and 2006, according to Counting the Homeless Australia 2006.

The report showed there were 105,000 Australians who were homeless on Census night in 2006, up from 99,900 in 2001 with 16,000 rough sleepers in 2006, up from 14,000 five years earlier.

The report shows a shift in the type of households who are becoming homeless – with more couples and families becoming homeless and slightly fewer singles.

Homelessness amongst kids under 12 has increased by 22 per cent since 2001 with 2,192 more children under 12 without a home on Census night in 2006.

The 21 per cent decrease in the number of homeless youth between 2001 and 2006 is good news and experts in the sector say this reduction is thanks in part to early intervention programs, such as Reconnect and school mediation programs.

After 17 years of strong economic growth it is unacceptable that 105,000 Australians are homeless on any given night, including 12,000 children.

Addressing homelessness is a major priority for the Government, and we have already announced an additional $150 million to build new homes for homeless Australians under A Place To Call Home.

The Government released its Green Paper on homelessness in May and is currently developing a White Paper to set the agenda for tackling homelessness to 2020. The White Paper is likely to be publicly released in early October.

Many of the 600 written submissions received by the Government included options for reform.

The submissions came from individuals, major research institutions, peak organisations representing homeless people, council of social services, housing, tenancy, governments, non-government organisations and homeless and health service providers.

In light of the submissions, the White Paper will include a comprehensive plan to reduce the number of Australians who experience homelessness with a greater focus on prevention and early intervention.

The Government believes the best way to reduce homelessness is through more effective service delivery and linkage of services and early intervention measures.

Reducing homelessness is a shared responsibility that requires a national commitment and strong leadership from all levels of government and from the not-for-profit and business sectors.