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Crisis in homelessness

Alice homelessness rate 17 times the national average

Centralian Advocate journalist: Jamal Ben-Haddou

NORTHERN  Territory homelessness services are turning people in need away as they struggle to cope with the strains of extreme demand for services in Alice Springs and decreasing funding.

The rate of homelessness in Alice Springs is a whopping 17 times higher than the national rate while Darwin’s rate is 2.6 times the national rate.

The latest Productivity Commission Report on Government Services has  revealed the NT Government spent $800,000 less on homelessness services last financial year than in 2017-18.

In the same period, unmet demand for homelessness services increased from 11 per cent to 13.3 per cent.

NT Shelter executive officer Peter McMillan said around half of requests made for help are not met in the Territory.

“People are presenting for housing or specialist services because they are either homeless or at risk of becoming homelessness and need support to maintain their tenancy,” he said.

“The overarching service that is struggling is accommodation services. In the last 12 months, there’s been a reduction in the number of Territorians assisted in housing. That’s declined from 34 per cent down to 25 per cent.”

Under existing national partnership agreements for homelessness and affordable housing, federal funding is allocated with no regard to actual need. The NT receives less than two per cent of total Commonwealth funding for affordable housing and homelessness out of a $1.4 billion budget. Mr McMillan said he wants the NT Government lobby the Commonwealth harder for a fair funding deal.

“54 per cent of houses in remote communities are overcrowded. This is a wakeup call for all levels of government that the current funding levels are failing many Territorians,” he said. A Territory Housing Department spokeswoman said the drop in funding was due to departmental staffing and admin expenses.

A federal Department of Social Services spokesperson said the ABS Census estimates that 81 per cent of the NT homelessness population is from severely crowded dwellings. “In 2019-20, the Australian Government will provide $19.9 million to the Northern Territory Government to address housing and homelessness under the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement,” they said.

The original article can be viewed here.

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