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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 4 Hansard (3 April) . . Page.. 1330 ..

MR HARGREAVES (continuing):

he runs foul of Treasury, and Treasury officials bind his hands, feet and eyes. I find that unfortunate. These people across the road counting their beans ought to open their hearts more, as well as their wallets.

Homeless men with their children are often the overlooked group among the homeless. When we talk about homeless people, we often think of dysfunctional families where one member has left. We often think of people sleeping rough. We often think of kids sleeping rough or sleeping on the floors of other people's homes. We forget that small number of men who, for one reason or another, have left the family home accompanied by children. We need to realise that they exist. They have a claim.

Mr Stefaniak indicated that we ought to look at a second refuge on the south side. I disagree that we need two models. I think we need one good model. But certainly we need another refuge on the south side of the lake because of the turn-away rate of the current service.

Our report talked about the needs of homeless men and accompanying children. The government has responded to that. Some people bring misfortune on themselves, and they have to take responsibility for their own actions. However, the kids have no say in the matter. They are victims. We have to do everything in our power to make sure that the actions of a couple of dysfunctional adults do not leave kids homeless on the streets.

The one thing that affected me deeply during this inquiry was the depth of despair homeless fathers felt over their impotence in providing secure accommodation for their kids. I welcome the government's response. I warmly welcome the minister's commitment to this issue. I ask members to open their hearts to these people.

MS TUCKER (11.21): We are way past the time when this matter was relevant. This matter came out of Mr Stefaniak's support for the group, Lone Fathers, that was running the service at the time. I was supportive of the government's handling of the matter. I understand that there is a good service running at present. However, I am not of the view that we are adequately accommodating the need for people in the community, men or women-in this instance we are talking about men and their children-who are seriously disadvantaged for various reasons.

Because I work quite closely with those supporting homeless people in Canberra, I would like to put on record a couple of issues for homeless people. Free food is an issue I have been working on for quite a number of years now. I am still concerned that government is reluctant to coordinate what is happening. I used to have this discussion with Mr Stefaniak and the previous Liberal government. I think the situation is the same now.

There seems to be a bit of a hands-off approach in providing basic necessities such as food for people who are homeless. In Canberra there is a tendency for governments to say that the charities deal with this and it is their responsibility. The charities do feed homeless people, to an extent. Government-funded agencies can also do it, and some of them assist. But I believe that government should coordinate and oversight what is going on.

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