Did you know that homelessness has increased by 13.7% in the past 4 years in Australia? (Everybody’s Home, 2018). Furthermore, a Mission Australia survey found that one-in-six 15 to 19-year-olds experienced homelessness in 2017 (Mission Australia, 2018).
In order to raise awareness about homelessness, the WSCLC tenancy team WESTS ran a stall in Centenary Square, Parramatta for Homelessness Week on August 6. Tenant Advocates Miriam, Rachael, Fern, Ivana, and Program Coordinator, Franya, were the forces behind the stall on the day. The team handed out an excess 200 showbags, which included information about WSCLC’s services and critical material on tenants’ rights.
The host of the event was Homeless Connect Western Sydney. The theme for this year was ‘ending homelessness together’. In this spirit, providers from a range of fields, including health, education, food provision and the legal sector came together, to provide assistance to those at risk of, or experiencing, homelessness. A slew of free goods and services were offered, including haircuts, health checks, podiatry checks, dental checks and lunches.
At the stall on the day, Tenant Advocate Miriam spoke about the role tenancy services play in the fight against homelessness. Given the risk of homelessness that is created when people experience issues with their tenancy, or fall out of their tenancy arrangements, having free services like WESTS is crucial. Indeed, Miriam said, ‘in order to sustain a tenancy and prevent homelessness, it’s good for our service to be present [at events like this], and to be able to give advice to people in the community’. Miriam noted that WESTS assists tenants in social housing situations. They also provide referrals to people who are homeless, or at risk of homelessness, to services like FAC’s Link2home and financial counselling.
Miriam emphasised the importance of Homelessness Week events in raising peoples’ awareness of the help at hand.
She stated, ‘it’s important to have events like these because it concentrates all the services available. Finding what is available is 50% of the struggle for people to get access to services. There’s often the referral roundabout- people don’t know who can help them and they get passed along’.
What more can you do?
Check out these fact sheets on homelessness on the Homelessness Australia website. The sheets provide important information about ways certain sections of the community, including people with disabilities and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, are overrepresented when it comes to homelessness.
Homelessness Australia has also developed the Everybody’s Home Campaign. Sign their petition to address Australia’s housing system. You can also read about the 5 aims of their campaign, and sign up for it, here.