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Homelessness services can’t keep up with demand

Demand for homeless services in the NT has increased by about 20 per cent in the last three years while government spending on support services per client has dropped 18 per cent since 2014 the NT Shelter executive officer has said.

NT News, Journalist: Judith Aisthorpe

THE Northern Territory homelessness services are turning people in need away as they struggle to cope with the dual strains of increasing demand and decreasing funding.

Australian Bureau of Statistic figures show the Territory has the highest homelessness rate in the country with 13,717 homeless people or about 600 people homeless for every 10,000 people in the NT as of 2016. The rate had risen 11 per cent since 2011.

The next highest figure was Queensland with about 46 without homes for every 10,000 people.

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.

A Housing Department spokeswoman said the drop in funding was due to departmental staffing and admin expenses.

“This figure is due to lower department staffing and administration expenses as a result of the implementation of a five-year grant funding model and three services having unexpended funds carried over from 2017-18, therefore reducing the funding required in 2018-19,” the spokeswoman said.

In real terms, spending on support services per client has dropped 18 per cent since 2014.

NT Shelter executive officer Peter McMillan homelessness services were unable to keep up. “If you’re cutting back on essential services you’re going to see people not getting the help they need,” he said.

“We’ve seen an increase in demand in the last three years in the order of 20 per cent.”

“In the last year there was an increase of 3.4 per cent in demand (for services).”

“We’ve got a mountain to climb. We’ve seen housing activity in remote parts of the Northern Territory we need to see changes in urban public housing,” Mr McMillan said.

Deputy Opposition Leader Lia Finocchiaro said it was disheartening to see the Territory’s homelessness crisis worsening.

“In October 2018, the Gunner Labor Government announced its “biggest plan ever” to tackle anti-social behaviour and homelessness,” Ms Finocchiaro said.

“Since, the Territory has continued to suffer from the Government’s inability to implement any meaningful change. We need measures that will make a positive impact.”

The Housing Department spokeswoman said the government had last year released the Northern Territory Homelessness Strategy and five year action plan designed to address homelessness in the NT, through prevention and early intervention.


The original article can be viewed here.

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