People who are homeless can be a source of anxiety and a challenge for their families, but the new advice from the Australian Government’s homelessness strategy suggests they may be better off living in their own homes.
It says it is better for them if they can keep to their own accommodation, because if they move out they will likely have to pay the rent.
“The Government believes people experiencing homelessness should live independently in their home, not in shared accommodation,” the strategy states.
“This includes the provision of accommodation, housing and supportive services such as food and employment.”
In addition, it says that “a person who is experiencing homelessness can and should be provided with a range of supports including accommodation, food, employment, medical care, job training, community and social support”.
The strategy states that if a person is living in shared housing, they should “remain aware that they are not alone in this, that the Government is committed to assisting people who are experiencing homelessness”.
“People experiencing homelessness have the right to stay in their accommodation where they are, provided they are able to pay their rent,” it states.
For example, if a homeless person is paying the rent in a rental property, the Government will provide them with a tenancy agreement and support payments.
The Government says it will not “turn a blind eye to a person who has no means to meet the rent”, but it says the right choice for people living in housing is “to stay with their family and friends”.
The Government has also issued guidelines on how to get around “unfair, unlawful and discriminatory measures” taken against people living rough or homeless.
“Unfair, illegal and discriminatory behaviour may include the refusal of an individual to apply for a public housing accommodation or the imposition of an unreasonable cost on a person’s home or accommodation,” it says.
“It may also include the failure to provide a dwelling unit for a person when they are living in a shared accommodation.”
People living rough can also be subject to unfair or unlawful conditions, such as “requiring or forcing them to use a particular method of transport”.
If they are in a vulnerable or unsanitary condition, they may face eviction or be deemed homeless and ineligible for public housing.
A person who cannot afford their rent is “in need of a place of refuge and needs to be able to provide for themselves, their family, friends, and neighbours”, it says, adding that people living on the streets can be considered homeless.
The government says it has received more than 3,500 submissions on homelessness and has received comments from more than 1,500 people, including those who are living rough.
The policy also highlights the need for “compassionate accommodation”.
It states that “housing, clothing, and other essential items” are “essential to maintaining a person in a safe and stable environment, and are not the result of a person being homeless”.
It says the Government recognises “that the circumstances of homelessness and its impacts are complex and that we must ensure that all Australians have access to affordable housing”.
A recent report from the Howard Government found that of the 16,000 people experiencing chronic homelessness in Australia, 3,000 were living rough and could not afford their housing.
It recommended that “government, community, and social partners work together to support those in need”.
“This approach has resulted in substantial and effective savings in the budget,” it found.
The strategy says that the government is working with local authorities to “ensure that a community that has a significant number of people living as rough and homeless is given a place to live”.