City of Sydney lord mayor Clover Moore has said that the NSW government’s “significant funding in housing options and support services” should remain, as the city completed its biannual street count.
The council’s summer street count, conducted in the early hours of February 22, found 225 people sleeping rough on Sydney’s inner-city streets, compared to a figure of 272 this time last year.
Temporary accommodation services critical
In reference to the state government’s increased efforts to move homeless people into temporary, emergency and longer-term accommodation during the harshest periods of the pandemic over the last two years, Cr Moore cautioned against returning to a business-as-usual approach.
“These temporary arrangements and support are often the first step in a journey to more permanent accommodation options, which is the ultimate aim,” she said.
“We also need much more social and affordable housing in our area and a continued focus on how we can work together to prevent people slipping through the cracks.”
Cr Moore also warned that not building on the success of temporary accommodation measures could see the numbers climb again.
“We still have over 200 people sleeping on city streets each night. Much of this extra help has now dried up or been discontinued and non-residents are back to not being able to access any support at all,” she said.
“We know the cost of living is a real issue in Sydney and the pandemic has further widened the inequality gap.”
The City utilised a team of 110 volunteers to complete the street count, who were joined by eight of the council’s homelessness advisors – volunteers with lived experience of homelessness.
Australia’s wage system called ‘broken’ by union secretary
Cr Moore’s comments mirror those of social services and union officials, who say that increased living costs combined with a lack of sufficient wage growth are creating a homelessness and housing affordability crisis.
Speaking to The Guardian on Saturday, National Secretary for the United Workers Union Tim Kennedy called Australia’s wage system “broken”.
“Unless Australian workers are given the capacity to obtain a fair share in wages, then more people will fall back into unnecessary poverty,” Mr Kennedy said.
Cassandra Goldie, chief executive of the Australian Council of Social Services also criticised the Federal Government’s halving of JobSeeker last year.
“We know from personal testimonies and surveys that the majority of people on these very low-income support payments will struggle even more to feed their families and keep a roof over their head.”
A pre-pandemic parliamentary report into changes in Australia’s cost of living from 2009-2019 showed that pensioner and welfare recipient households were the hardest hit when it came to cost of living increases.
The two groups experienced increases of 25.1 per cent and 26.1 per cent respectively, against a national average of 23.4 per cent.
The report concluded that “certain households will feel the impact more strongly than others, particularly in the context of low wage growth”.