Is jail really the safest option for our homeless?
A TARGET to halve homelessness in Lismore, and across NSW, by 2025 is looking unlikely, according to Mission Australia's chief executive.
In a visit to Lismore last week, Mission Australia CEO Catherine Yeomans said Lismore isn't on track to achieve the organisation's commitment to halve homelessness in the next nine years.
"When we ask whether or not Lismore is on track to halve homelessness by 2025, unless we take action and get a coordinated response to solving homelessness then we aren't going to achieve that target because the rates are going up," Ms Yeomans said.
Data from the 2011 Census states 228 people were homeless in Lismore on Census night. Ms Yeomans expected the figure to rise when data from the 2016 Census is released based on discussion with Mission Australia staff.
Ms Yeomans said Lismore isn't alone as Mission Australia branches throughout NSW are struggling to drastically alleviate homelessness by 2025.
"I'm not confident unless we have leadership at all levels of government and a commitment to achieving that target," she said.
During her visit to Lismore, Ms Yeomans said staff identified access to affordable and appropriate housing as a key challenge in supporting their clients to get back on track.
She said staff reported a three month wait for specialist homelessness services, high rental rates in the local region and a 10 year plus waiting list for public housing.
"Very sadly, our staff were telling me that sometimes the individuals that they are working with are finding that jail is the safest option because at least they have a roof over their head, at least they have food on their table," she said.
Staff also told Ms Yeomans that collaboration between detox and rehabilitation services is also lacking in the Lismore area.
"There's not enough collaboration and open communication between detox and rehab services, we need to join the dots a bit more and also fill in some of the gaps and make services are well connected to support people in the local area," she said.
Moving forward, Ms Yeoman called on all three tiers of government to prioritise reducing homelessness across the state.
Late last month, state and territory housing ministers discussed homelessness support funding arrangements at a Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting in Sydney.
With the agreements set to expire in June 2017, Ms Yeoman said the government must act
"We must ensure that vulenerable people have the support they need after June 2017 so that homelessness is reduced rather than increased in the future."