22 March 2023
The state’s peak community housing organisation, the Community Housing Industry Association NSW (CHIA NSW), has warned that a life-changing program that gets people sleeping rough into secure homes is set to end, putting hundreds of people at risk of homelessness.
The Together Home program has provided stable housing and support to over 1,000 people since July 2020, however the majority of participants are set to exit the program by the end of this year.
This call comes as the latest Census data shows there has been a small but welcome decrease in people experiencing homelessness in NSW since 2016.
The 2021 Census was held during COVID-19 lockdowns, during which time the NSW Government provided temporary accommodation to rough sleepers as a health prevention measure. However, the Census results show the Together Home program is effective in ending homelessness by ensuring people sleeping rough have safe and secure housing and much-needed additional support.
CHIA NSW is urging the NSW State Government to commit to a Housing First policy across NSW and make the Together Home program permanent by committing to $25 million per year to continue the successful program.
“Together Home has supported over 1,000 people in NSW to get off the streets and into a safe home with wrap-around support. This has allowed them to sustain their tenancies and to enter education and training and to secure jobs. It’s a life-changing program,” said Mark Degotardi, CEO of CHIA NSW.
“The Census results are encouraging but we can’t stop now. The Census data is more than a year old, during which time rents have increased by over 20% while inflation has neared 8%, putting more people at risk of homelessness than ever before. All the progress will be lost if the Government doesn’t keep funding this highly effective program.”
CHIA NSW has also called for the NSW Government to build an additional 200 social housing properties every year for people exiting the program, to ensure those who’ve benefited from the program are not forced back into homelessness when they leave it.
More than 850 people are expected to exit from the program by late 2023, however current funding will only provide homes for only 20 percent of people.
Mr Degotardi said funding of $25 million per year would provide 250 new Together Home packages each year as well as on-going support for people with high and complex needs.
He said it was critical that the NSW Government builds more housing for participants exiting the program, to ensure the benefits of the program were not lost.
“When people exit the Together Home program, they are facing a rental market which has record-low vacancy rates and record-high rents, and a social housing waitlist of almost 58,000 households,” said Mr Degotardi.
“This means that nearly 700 individuals and families are at risk of slipping back into homelessness,” he said.
“The funding from the past two state budgets, with co-contributions from community housing providers, will deliver 220 homes over the coming years. That’s a great start but it’s not enough – it will only meet the needs of 20 percent of current program participants,” said Mr Degotardi.
“We urgently need funding for the Together Home program to continue to ensure those who are already in the program are not at risk of becoming homeless again, while also providing support to people who continue to sleep rough. Our recommendation is that the program is embedded as a permanent Housing First response in NSW.
Media contact: Bron Matherson, 0438 844 765