Monday, 24 November 2008

PM urged to tackle homelessness

'Dead wrong' ... Mr Rudd has been urged to follow through on homelessness

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is under pressure to make good on his promise to help the plight of the nation's homeless.

Mr Rudd put homelessness on the national agenda in January, announcing he was forming a committee to improve crisis services and help people get long-term housing.

He also told MPs to learn more about the plight of the homeless by spending a night in an emergency shelter.

"It is dead wrong that in a country as wealthy as ours that on any given night some 14,000 people are sleeping rough," he said at the time.

But Deb Tsorbaris from the coalition Australians for Ending Homelessness says the situation has deteriorated over the past year, and the global financial crisis is already biting the Australian community hard.

"We already know that in one of the last sets of data, the data that is collected from our services, that nearly 3,000 people had had mortgages before they appeared at our services," she said.

"That was at least a year ago, so we would expect those numbers to double or triple. Now that's frightening."

The coalition is in Canberra with a five-point plan to reduce homelessness and holds out hope that action can begin before the end of the year.

"Kevin Rudd has distinguished himself as the only prime minister, in my memory anyway, who has singled out homelessness as an issue that he wants to tackle," she said.

"We have had the white paper delayed. COAG is in a week and at that time there will be discussions between the states and the Commonwealth about huge amounts of money, in excess of $33 billion, and we are keen to make sure that a chunk of that goes to the area of homelessness."

The group's plan includes a proposal to build an additional 250,000 low-cost and community houses by 2020.

Federal Housing Minister Tanya Plibersek says she expects the issue will be raised at next Saturday's Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting.

"I think we are at, obviously, a very difficult time because of the global financial crisis, but the Government's early and decisive action with its $10.4 billion economic security strategy, I think, has certainly given a lot of people comfort and security and our actions on homelessness have been critical," she said.

"But we have got to ask ourselves, not just how the economic circumstances are affecting the number of homeless people, but how successful we are as a community and as governments working together to turn around some of these numbers."

Ms Plibersek says the Prime Minister's commitment to dealing with homelessness "has been full and unwavering".

Financial crisis no excuse for homeless neglect: Greens

The Greens say the Federal Government should not use the financial crisis as an excuse to water down its commitments to homeless people.

Greens Senator Scott Ludlum says the Government's rhetoric on homeless people has not been matched by action.

He says he is worried the Government will continue to stall and blame the financial crisis.

"It is something that's starting to colour the debate, if it's anything the Government's trying to put off or might be politically difficult it's certainly something being raised," he said.

"With due acknowledgment that the world economy is in serious trouble, people are still homeless right across Australia so I think it's time we saw some concrete action."


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Greens push for affordable homes
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Qld has highest homeless rate in Australia

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When pain persists, they arrive
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Fee too much for Block project
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