Mr HAYES (Fowler—Chief Opposition Whip) (10:41): It is well known that homelessness is on the rise. More than 116,000 people live without a safe, secure place to call home. James Toomey, CEO of Mission Australia, stated:
Let us not forget that behind those numbers are thousands of men, women and children who are living in the most precarious situations, forced to sleep on the street, or in a car, or on a couch at a friend's house or live in severely over crowded dwellings.
His words succinctly put into perspective the distressing and desperate situation faced by many Australians affected by homelessness.
While homelessness and housing instability are very real problems across the nation, it is particularly dire in my electorate of Fowler, where we are overrepresented with disadvantaged people, and particularly, people living in vulnerable situations. Issues such as mental health, disability, unemployment, relationship breakdowns, substance abuse, gambling addiction and, in particular, domestic violence all play a very significant role with respect to homelessness. Sadly, I see this disproportionately occurring in my community. The constituents that come to my office are dealing with very complex and multifaceted issues. Researchers have found that women and children are at a heightened risk of homelessness as a result of domestic violence. Tracy Phillips, the executive officer for Bonnie Support Services, a remarkable organisation in my community, sheds light on the interrelationship between domestic violence and homelessness when she said:
Women escaping domestic violence and family violence are struggling to find permanent, affordable and sustainable housing. Our society has a serious division between those with, and those without, permanent housing.
For communities like mine, particularly where the housing demand is high and public housing lists are long, the only real answer to our homelessness crisis—as Tracy Phillips put it to me—is to emphasise we do, desperately, need an increase in social housing stock. Our local service providers are struggling to keep up with the demand for crisis accommodation and transitional housing. Nevertheless, they continue to do a fantastic job, day in, day out, in addressing homelessness and addressing many of the other issues and challenges that come along—not only putting a roof over people's heads.
Recently, I met with Pastor David Delany of the Fairfield branch of the Salvation Army, which administers a number of great programs to address the issue of homelessness and housing affordability in my area. One of the things they do is called 'Soup Kitchen 473', an initiative of the Salvos which aims to provide meals to those doing it tough. The Salvos also run the Moneycare program to help those who are struggling to best handle their financial matters.
The Good Samaritan Aid Society is another organisation that is making a difference for the better in the community by working with many homeless individuals not only in my area but across New South Wales. The most recent initiative of the Good Samaritan Aid Society is called Food Angel. It aims to provide weekly hampers to help individuals who are experiencing difficulties when it comes to housing and the high pressures of everyday living. Feeding Heart is another program initiated by the Good Samaritan Aid Society, which administers help to those affected by homelessness. The program, which has been running for the past three years, has been providing nutritious meals to homeless people in the Liverpool and Fairfield areas. This is all thanks to Bishop Mari Emmanuel and his team of volunteers at the St Shimun and St Marys Church.
I also take this opportunity to congratulate the Wattle Grove Lions Club for the inspiring work they are doing in supporting women and children escaping domestic violence. The Wattle Grove Lions Club have partnered with Masterton Homes to build crisis accommodation in our regions to support domestic violence victims. This is a momentous achievement, and shows what can be done through cooperation and thinking outside the square. Access to affordable and safe, sustainable housing is a basic human right, and clearly there is much more that this government can be doing to address housing inequity and homelessness now that it has reached a crisis point. Simply put: we're a wealthy country and homelessness should be completely unacceptable in a country like Australia.