Page 2661 - Week 09 - Wednesday, 7 August 2013
We still have a lot more to do to ensure Canberrans do not experience homelessness, but funding that will see Common Ground a reality in the very near future is a huge step and sends a clear message of the government’s commitment to addressing homelessness now and into the future. I commend the motion to the Assembly.
MS LAWDER (Brindabella) (4.59): I am delighted that Mr Gentleman has raised this topic today and referred to national Homeless Persons Week in his motion. As you can imagine, that is an issue very close to my heart, and I commend Mr Gentleman for bringing up the topic. I also commend the Common Ground Canberra initiative, which is a fine example of commonwealth, state and philanthropic cooperation to address an important social issue. The Common Ground Canberra alliance, especially the dedicated and hardworking Elizabeth Dawson, is to be commended for its tireless pursuit of funding and support for Common Ground in the ACT, and I am very pleased this is going ahead.
The Common Ground model brings together government, corporate, philanthropic and community stakeholders to promote and deliver innovative, supportive housing solutions for chronic homelessness. In the context of yesterday’s matters of public importance debate, I had expected to hear mention of this project and the philanthropic support for it, but perhaps I missed it.
Common Ground projects target the most vulnerable chronically homeless people, providing them with safe, high quality places to live and the support services and security required to keep them housed, healthy and stable. While we support this Common Ground Canberra project, we also have some concerns about the location, the cost per person and the cuts to other homelessness services. Is Gungahlin the best location, since the residents will need access to many other off-site support services, the majority of which are located in the city in the CBD? Also, the residents will need access to education and training as well as employment opportunities. Having the Common Ground Canberra project in Gungahlin may not provide the residents with the best chance to have access to the services and opportunities they will require.
Per person, the cost of this project is high—but, admittedly, not as high as keeping someone homeless. In Canberra, we have an extremely large number of people experiencing homelessness, and this means we have to think about the maximum bang for our buck. The money needs to be used in the most effective way to ensure the most number of people possible can be helped.
There is no doubt that people living rough are the most extreme and most vulnerable group of people experiencing homelessness. In the ACT two per cent of our homeless population are rough sleepers compared to six per cent nationally. Almost 300 children under the age of 12 are classed as homeless, and around 30 per cent of the ACT’s homeless are aged 18 or under. And the Canberra Common Ground project will not be for children.
Just as great a concern for us are the cuts that are being made to other specialist homelessness services in the ACT. Reportedly these cuts are as high as 23 per cent. This means that other vital services which facilitate assistance to everyone, including