Members Statement: Homelessness

This week is Homelessness Week. There are certainly few issues more serious than being homeless — having nowhere to stay, nowhere to sleep, nowhere to keep your things, nowhere to eat your meals, nowhere to shower or wash your clothes, nowhere to go home to or to call home.
Wednesday, August 9, 2017 - 8:30am
Speaker:
Sue Pennicuik

Ms PENNICUIK (Southern Metropolitan) — This week is Homelessness Week. There are certainly few issues more serious than being homeless — having nowhere to stay, nowhere to sleep, nowhere to keep your things, nowhere to eat your meals, nowhere to shower or wash your clothes, nowhere to go home to or to call home. Homelessness Australia reports that there are currently 105 237 people in Australia who are homeless, or 49 out of every 10 000 people, 0.5 per cent of the population or 1 in every 200 people. Fifty-six per cent are male and 44 per cent are female. Twenty-five per cent are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians and 30 per cent were born overseas. Thirty-seven per cent are under 18 years of age and 17 per cent are under 12 years of age. These figures are sobering.

Homelessness Australia reports that 22 789 people in Victoria are homeless. This has increased by almost 21 per cent since 2006. People are staying in improvised dwellings, in tents or they are sleeping out. They are staying in supported accommodation for the homeless, in other households temporarily, in boarding houses or in severely overcrowded dwellings.

In an article in the Guardian, as part of its 'No fixed address' series, David West wrote:

The closest feeling to having nowhere to stay for the night is that of a broken heart. It is a feeling of abandonment, of rejection and loneliness. When you are homeless you feel rejected by all, not just by another.

Homelessness can happen to anyone, and it is happening to more and more people every day. It is a social crisis that we must get on top of lest we end up like America, with millions of people living on the streets.

and later...

Ms PENNICUIK (Southern Metropolitan) — I would like to think Ms Shing and Ms Fitzherbert for their contributions to the debate on this motion. I would also like to take the opportunity to thank groups such as the Ashburton Residents Action Group and the North Brighton Residents Action Group for the work that they have done in advocating on behalf of their local communities about in particular the Markham estate and the New Street, Brighton, estate.

I raise that just to follow on from what Ms Fitzherbert said regarding Ms Shing's reference to scare campaigns being run. In fact the concerns about these particular sites are actually coming from the community members. In the cases of Ashburton and New Street I know for a fact, having spoken to all those people, that as well as the concerns Ms Fitzherbert mentioned they are concerned about the need for more public housing. They want to see more public housing on these sites. Their number one concern is that the sites are only proposed to be 10 per cent public housing. They want to see a lot more. They know there are 35 000 applicants for public housing. They are very aware of it. These concerns are actually coming from the community and from the local councils as well, who are being shut out.

I can agree with a lot of the things Ms Shing had to say about the crisis et cetera in housing and the lack of action by the commonwealth over the years in terms of public housing, but I do not agree with her saying that this is about politics. It is about an issue. In fact the motion has been drafted very carefully to be about a particular public housing renewal program and the implications of that. In particular when you dispose of that public land to the private sector — as Ms Fitzherbert said, not everything should be about super profits — this will be about private developers making profits from public land, not from land they have purchased themselves, which is a completely different scenario. When we have got such a public housing crisis, where will new sites for public housing be found once those sites are used up for private housing?

In the interests of moving on to the other business that is ahead of us and allowing time to go through that, I thank those who spoke on the motion, and I thank the opposition for its support of the motion.