Vinnies ACT, experiences 40% increase in calls for help

Urgent support is needed for Canberrans experiencing homelessness, St Vincent de Paul Society Canberra/Goulburn CEO, Lucy Hohnen has said, as the organisation struggles to find the capacity and resources to match increased demand.

The 2024 Productivity Commission Report on Government Services (RoGS), released this month, showed homelessness is still a crucial issue in the ACT.

The report revealed some 2407 people experienced homelessness for at least a month in the previous year, with 1082 people in Canberra experiencing persistent homelessness.

“What these statistics show are the drivers behind the consistently high demand for support from community organisations like ours,” Ms Hohnen said.

“We have seen an exponential increase in the calls for assistance through our emergency helpline in the past year. In December alone, we saw a 40% increase in the number of calls to us for help. The majority of these requests are for accommodation support to prevent individuals and families from becoming homeless and for food.”

Ms Hohnen said Vinnies was also seeing an increase in people in need of specialist homelessness services and that front-line teams and drop-in centres were stretched.

“We commend the ACT Government for its efforts to address some of the issues regarding homelessness, including the addition of more public and community housing units to the existing stock in the last year,” she said.

“However, the sheer number of people on the public housing waitlist, (3174 households), and the fact that those with the greatest need can experience a waiting period of up to 26 months demonstrates that much more needs to be improved to address this surge in demand for help.”

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According to the RoGS, the proportion of lower-income families who are accessing community housing and are spending a substantial portion of their income on rent has increased. 

The proportion of households in community housing who spend more than 30% of their income on rent has increased from 4.6% in 2022 to 10.2% in 2023. Additionally, those spending from a quarter to a third of their income on rent, have increased dramatically from 3.4% in 2022 to 13.8% in 2023.  

“Every day we hear the stories of the people behind these numbers,” Ms Hohnen said.

“As a Society, we want to work with the Government to address the complex needs of those experiencing the toughest of times in our community.”

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