On June 23, 1987 Bob Hawke, Australia’s Prime Minister at the time declared that “by 1990 no Australian child will be living in poverty”. It would have been wonderful if it would have happened but it didn’t. 70,000 children and young people were homeless in 1989 – there are now over 100,000 Australia wide.
It’s a sad fact that thousands of people, young and old are homeless in Sydney. In a period from June to September 2005 the Australian Bureau of Statistics estimated that between 311 and 455 were homeless in Sydney’s Central Business District alone. The City if Sydney is just one of 152 Local Councils in New South Wales. The survey was conducted over the coldest months of the year and it is widely considered to have grossly underestimated the true number of homeless people in the City.
The last count undertaken by the City of Sydney in February, 2009 resulted in an estimate of 791 homeless people in the Local Government area. 165 volunteers participated in the count and were able to cover around two thirds of the City. On August 18, 2009 the City of Sydney will conduct another street count (counts occur every 6 months) and during the count no “rough sleeper” will be disturbed or woken.
The problem is complex and requires immediate and intense attention. One quarter of homeless people throughout Australia live in New South Wales and homelessness can be classified as social or economic. The mentally ill, victims of domestic violence, substance abusers or those who have experienced dramatic life events are most at risk. 57% of homeless women seek assistance because of domestic violence.
By the end of 2000 in NSW, there were 96,500 people on the public housing waiting list. Yet only 1,285 public housing dwellings were constructed in that year! As our economic situation worsens and unemployment increases the number of economically homeless is sure to increase.