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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 4 Hansard (3 April) . . Page.. 1331 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

Directions is not offering breakfast anymore. The Red Cross Roadhouse is not operating at the moment. I think Hare Krishna are filling the gap. We are lucky that they are. I do not know what is going to happen with the Red Cross. I had to advocate for a dishwasher at the Red Cross house. What was happening there was quite concerning. I asked Clubs ACT to assist. There were hygiene issues, as dishes were not being properly washed with very hot water.

A lot of homeless people in Canberra have been evicted from ACT Housing properties or from whatever housing of last resort they had or whatever institution they were in. This is something we need to be very clear on. We have had many discussions in this place about evicting people from government housing, which more and more is becoming housing of last resort, and about what it means for society as a whole if we put people on the street. What are the implications of that for the community, whether those evicted have children or they do not have children?

Because I work with those supporting homeless people, I am aware that many homeless people have a mental illness. There is almost an alternative society of people who have no connections with any services in Canberra. They have dropped out, because services have not been able to meet their needs. I am not suggesting that the needs are not complex or that delivering services to these people is not a serious, complex, challenging issue.

The fact that so many of these people have a mental illness is of huge concern to me. We have seen this right across Australia, particularly since institutionalisation became a factor. We have never had huge institutions in Canberra, but mentally ill people still end up being homeless. That is a tragedy and something we should be ashamed of. Various committees have recommended that we should have more mental health outreach workers and give more attention to how we can better support these people.

It is always an issue to get the federal government to take a more humanitarian approach in its budget decisions right across the board. I will support the government in all its attempts to persuade the federal funders to do a better job of SAAP funding and so on. Maybe the minister can enlighten me about exactly where we are up to with the strategy development he spoke of when he responded to this committee report. For example, there was to be a housing transition forum.

Mr Wood: I will give you an update.

MS TUCKER: Mr Wood will give us an update. I appreciate that.

MR WOOD (Minister for Disability, Housing and Community Services, Minister for Urban Services, Minister for the Arts and Heritage and Minister for Police and Emergency Services) (11.28), in reply: This is a timely debate, given the front page of the Chronicle this week, as Mr Stefaniak mentioned. As we move into winter, we need to remember people such as Chris and others in our community, a community we think is pretty affluent, and examine our response to the situation.

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