Media Release by Senator the Hon Kay Patterson

Number of homeless falls, says new report

The Minister for Family and Community Services, Senator Kay Patterson, welcomed today’s release of the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ report “Counting the Homeless 2001”, which shows a decline in the number of homeless people.

The report shows the estimated number of homeless people in Australia on Census night in 2001 of 99,900 had fallen since the previous estimate on Census night in 1996.

Senator Patterson said: “This is good news. More importantly this represents a significant decline in the study’s estimated national rate of homelessness per 10,000 of the population from 59 in 1996 to 53 in 2001.

“The report will provide a valuable contribution to assist all levels of government in planning and service delivery. It will be of particular use in increasing our understanding of the various groups that make up the homeless population, including those who make little to no use of services that target homelessness.”

Senator Patterson said the Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP) is the Australian Government’s major response to homelessness. The aim of the Program is to provide transitional supported accommodation and a range of support services for people who are homeless or at imminent risk of homelessness.

“SAAP services are funded nationally under the SAAP IV Agreement, with Australian Government and State and Territory contributions totalling around $1.4 billion,” she said.

“The Australian Government clearly showed its commitment to the Program by contributing more than $830 million, an increase of 18 per cent, or $115 million, at the start of the current agreement.

“A recent report released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare on the SAAP shows that during 2001-02 nearly every day 20,000 Australians who were homeless or at risk of homelessness were helped in some way by one or more of the 1,286 SAAP services around the country.

“According to the report, SAAP agencies provided accommodation or other substantial support such as advice and information, financial assistance and referrals to over 95,000 clients in 2001-02. A range of other support and assistance provided included meals, laundry and shower facilities, information and emotional support.”

Senator Patterson said SAAP was a well-targeted service to meet the needs of the homeless. However, the Government recognised that a range of different approaches were needed to address the complexities of homelessness.

“The Government also realises that early intervention measures are very important in preventing homelessness and it has provided $9.6 million over five years to the National Homelessness Strategy. This includes funding for specialist homelessness initiatives like the Family Homelessness Prevention Pilots and the National Homelessness Strategy Demonstration Projects.

“Bearing in mind the particular problems associated with youth homelessness, $82.2 million has been provided over four years to extend the Reconnect Program.

“In the past few years 98 Reconnect services have opened throughout Australia and are showing some very positive results in helping young people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness and their families.

“It is clear that some people who are homeless need extra support at critical points in their life, such as when attempting to gain employment. Therefore, the Government has introduced the Transition to Independent Living Allowance (TILA).

“TILA provides one-off assistance to young people in their transition from leaving care to living independently.

“The Government has a strong commitment to the Job Placement, Employment and Training (JPET) program with the 2003 Budget providing an additional $1.3 million over four years to maintain JPET in regional Australia.

“While homelessness is an ongoing issue is Australia, today’s ABS report clearly shows that we are heading in the right direction and that the policies of the Australian Government are working.”