by Jessie Davies
The number of people sleeping rough in the city has decreased, according to the latest bi-annual count conducted by Sydney City Council.
The count found 255 people sleeping outdoors on the evening of 5 August, down from 274 in February’s count. According to the Council, these figures are in line with the downward trend that has seen a 25 per cent reduction in homelessness in the inner city area since 2008.
But Councillor Irene Doutney says that while the Council is doing all it can to house people, gloomy economic forecasts for the coming years pose a threat to its continued progress.
“For us to be able to continue to make a dent in the numbers, we need more public, affordable and supported housing, but getting any type of affordable housing in the inner city area is like pulling teeth,” she says.
“On the economic level, things aren’t looking great. We really need to secure funding for housing projects and services if we are to stabilise the numbers.”
Councillor Doutney credits much of the city’s recent success in reducing homelessness to its Way2Home initiative, an outreach program that helps homeless people move into long-term housing and re-engage with the community.
Cat Goodwin, Service Manager at Way2Home, is proud of the achievements it has made in only three years.
“Since the start of the program, we have housed 85 people from Woolloomooloo alone, and we have achieved a tenancy sustainability rate of 97 per cent,” she says.
At the heart of the program is its ‘housing first’ philosophy, which sees the provision of housing to those who need it most, despite their ongoing problems, which often includes drug or alcohol addiction.
“Once people have a roof over their heads, we then provide them the support they need to maintain their tenancies, whether this be helping them to overcome their addictions or teaching them life skills,” Cat says.
Ashfield-based charity The Exodus Foundation, produces 5,000 meals each week for the disadvantaged right across the city. Suzanne Baran, Social Health and Wellbeing Officer, says that there is no shortage of food available for Sydney’s homeless, just housing.
However, the provision of additional housing won’t necessarily help achieve long-term targets to reduce homelessness, Suzanne adds, pointing to the importance of supported housing programs like Way2Home.
“Housing arrangements such as private boarding houses can become hubs of unwanted activity. They are not supportive environments and often people find themselves back out on the streets,” she says.