The Guardian November 28, 2001


Homelessness in South Australia

by Bob Briton

A sea of house-shaped symbols was planted on Adelaide's Victoria Square 
last Thursday as part of a day of activities to focus the public's 
attention on the problem of homelessness in the state.

The six thousand shapes each represented an individual or family currently 
on the waiting lists for public housing. The "Tent City" campaign was 
organised by the Community Campaign Coalition which includes South 
Australian Council for Social Service(SACOSS), Homelessness SA and Shelter 
SA.

The object of the campaign was to draw attention to the tens of thousands 
of South Australians who do not have access to affordable housing. The 
situation in SA has its counterpart in all the major cities of Australia.

"This nation is in a housing crisis. The Tent City Campaign aims to get the 
lack of affordable, safe secure and appropriate housing on the State 
election agenda. Current government policies are failing to meet housing 
needs", said Gary Wilson, Executive Director of Shelter SA.

Organisers are also drawing attention to the effect of appropriate 
accommodation on other outcomes such as health and education. Homelessness 
has a devastating impact on those aspects of people's lives. The lack of 
public housing is a major reason for the growing number of homeless people 
in the state. 

Many South Australians have kept out of poverty because of their access to 
public housing. However, while needs keep increasing, there are now 5875 
fewer houses in the overall public housing stock than in 1996.

Looking for a place to live in Adelaide can be very stressful due to the 
high costs and low vacancy rates for private renters. "Recent research 
shows 76% of low income tenants in SA are paying more than 30% of their 
income on housing!", Mr Wilson added.

The 6000 families represented by the white shapes are in urgent need of 
public housing and have to be considered as in danger of becoming homeless.

Shelter SA, SACOSS and Homelessness SA are calling for an integrated 
strategy to address the current crisis. A new approach needs to:

* Stop the reduction in Public Housing Stock

* Increase funding for services assisting vulnerable and homeless 
individuals and families

* Prevent closure of more boarding houses

* Review Centrelink breaching policies

* Address the housing and health crisis of Indigenous Australians

* Introduce legislation to protect long term caravan park residents

* Provide advice and support services for tenants who rent privately

* Encourage public and private sector investment in a range of affordable 
housing options

* Build adaptable and energy efficient housing

* Promote sustainable home ownership

Other events in Victoria Square last Thursday included the launch of SACOSS 
and Shelter SA's new publication Housing Creates Health and 
Wellbeing. Anyone wanting to know more about the ongoing campaign for 
affordable housing can find the organisers through their web site at 
http://www.sheltersa.asn.au or call (08) 82216488.

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