Independent Sydney MP Alex Greenwich has called for “epidemic levels” of homelessness in New South Wales to be treated as a state of emergency.
Greenwich said the number of people with no fixed address in New South Wales had risen by 37 per cent since the 2011 Census.
Research shows the issue disproportionately affects gay, lesbian and bisexual people, who are two to three times more likely to experience homelessness than heterosexuals. The rates are even higher for transgender people.
“The homelessness crisis has reached epidemic levels in NSW and now must be considered a state emergency. The stories behind the statistics are heartbreaking,” he said.
“We know that almost a third of people accessing homelessness services are women and children escaping domestic violence.
“In my own constituency, I’ve heard countless accounts of young LGBTI people getting kicked out of their home, some forced to subsequently trade sex for shelter.”
Greenwich has started a petition calling for homelessness to be treated as “a state emergency” and for the creation of “an urgent plan to end homelessness in collaboration with all levels of government and homelessness services.”
“Nearly 40,000 people are homeless in New South Wales and the rate of homelessness is increasing at epidemic levels,” the petition reads.
“Without secure and safe housing, disability, health and mental health conditions degenerate and can’t be treated, and new health problems emerge.”
This week is Homelessness Week, to raise awareness of people experiencing homelessness and the issues they face. According to research, while one in eight Australians have been homeless, this rises to one in three people who identify as lesbian, bisexual, and gay.
Research conducted in Victoria and published by the Gay and Lesbian Foundation of Australia in September last year found LGBTIQ people were more likely to experience homelessness at a younger age, driven by family rejection.
LGBTIQ people also experience misgendering, harassment, violence and discrimination in shared accommodation facilities, rooming houses and services, and discrimination in private rentals.
Fears of actual negative experiences within services were leading homeless LGBTIQ young people to avoid shelters and assistance, the report said.
New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian told SBS News that homelessness was a “serious and chronic” problem in New South Wales.
“We need to be vigilant and keep working to reduce the rate of homelessness… We want to end homelessness by 2030,” she said.
But she said the figures Greenwich quoted included people “who have a roof over their head… They may be couch surfing, they may be living in a boarding house… Not all of them are exposed to the elements.”
Greenwich said this did not mean those people had a “safe and secure home”.
“If you’re in boarding houses or couch surfing or temporary accommodation, you do not have a safe roof over your head,” he said.
“You are still at risk of violence, everything being stolen, [it may be] run down or unstable housing.”