Pandemic could have a silver lining for city's homeless population

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The people helped into social housing included more than 230 rough sleepers who spent time in temporary accommodation in hotels or motels before being found something more permanent.

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Another 300 rough sleepers remain in temporary accommodation, and should exit into social housing through the $36 million Together Home project announced at the end of June. That project will see the government and 19 community housing partners provide homes and support services for homeless people, in line with Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s goal to halve street sleeping by 2025.

Mr Ward said the NSW government planned to deliver 23,000 new or renovated social affordable private dwellings over the next 10 years, as well as the wraparound support services needed to address the underlying causes of homelessness.

There have been calls for the federal government to invest in social housing as part of its economic stimulus response, rather than programs such as HomeBuilder that benefit private home owners.

Mr Ward said he would “welcome any investment” from the federal government and continues to work closely with them.

Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the twice-yearly count of rough sleepers within the City of Sydney boundaries would be going ahead this week, but with council staff rather than volunteers.

“We’re hopeful that one of the results of the pandemic might be that we’re addressing the homelessness crisis in the City of Sydney,” Ms Moore said. “We’re doing our regular count next week and we expect the numbers to be well and truly down because of Gareth Ward’s action.”

In August 2019 there were 254 rough sleepers in the City of Sydney boundaries and in February this year it was 334. It is usually higher in summer when the weather is warmer. The government’s program is running statewide, not just in Sydney.

Carl, 43, has been sleeping rough in western Sydney and the Hawkesbury region on and off since 2015 after his marriage broke down. He has been unable to see his two daughters, aged 14 and 7.

Carl, who requested to use his first name only, has been helped into temporary accommodation by Link Housing through the Together Home program and is working towards finding a permanent place to live.

He said he feels much more secure and is looking forward to rebuilding his life.

“I want to address any mental health issues that I’ve got at the moment, regain some kind of contact with my daughters and work in the community again – get a job,” Carl said.

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