Social housing in crisis

Homelessness in Australia is on the rise. Each night 105,000 people sleep in hostels, temporary living or on the street, as inflated rental and housing prices continue to render people homeless. In a statement released by the Department of Housing, it was said it could take up to three years to place new applicants into government funded housing.

But Sydney waitress and mother, Rachel Nash says it takes a lot longer and the system doesn’t help anyone. “I have been waiting 12 years for a home while my son and I have nowhere to live,” she said.

According to Sydney City Council’s most recent Street Count, 755 people were sleeping in a state of chronic homelessness during winter this year. ‘Chronic homelessness’ is defined by someone who sleeps on the street; those who sleep within a dwelling, but are in temporary accommodation are defined as ‘secondary homelessness’.

Rachel says her and her son are ‘lucky’ because they can rotate through a number of women refuges. “We never have to sleep on the street but it gets tiring moving all the time,” she said. Due to policy that governs temporary housing refuges, Rachel says they have to move every 28 days. “It’s not so bad now, we rotate through a regular couple of places and my son has made friends with kids in the same situation.”

Statistics released by Sydney City Council indicate Redfern’s social housing situation has improved. However on the corner of Pitt St and Phillip St, less than 1km from Redfern police station, a group of youth sit in a playground smoking methamphetamine [street name Ice]. The playground is part of the Redfern-Waterloo Towers, the largest social housing development in the inner city.

According to South Sydney Mental Health psychologist, Shane Brown the Redfern and Waterloo Authority have simply shifted the problem from Redfern to Waterloo. “The statistics show Redfern is becoming more affluent but Waterloo now has a higher density of people with incomes less than $247 per week,” he said.

A resident in the towers, who cannot be named for legal reasons, lives in constant fear for her safety. The woman moved into the towers two years ago and in that time has been raped on three separate occassions by neighbouring men. Despite putting in an urgent transfer request, backed by numerous social services organisations, the housing department has said it will take three years to find ‘alternative accommodation’.

Six-year-old, Tyler* also lives in the Towers and is suffering from severe anxiety after watching his mother been violently beaten on their way home from school. Tyler* also explained how sometimes when he arrives home from school he sees “people dead”. Tyler said “sometimes people jump off their balcony and I see them just laying there.”

As social housing continues to be strained and private rent in Sydney remain exuberant, the cycle of homelessness will continue. Shane Brown says “unless the council can address the fundamental issues that foster homelessness, rather than venturing lucrative development programs, everything will remain the same.”



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