Shire Matters with Mark Speakman: A helping hand for Homelessness Week

Each year thousands of people seek support due to homelessness, the causes of which are unfortunately plentiful and persistent.

A light is being shone on this significant social challenge this week as the country marks Homelessness Week for 2020.

This spotlight would not be complete without acknowledging domestic and family violence (DFV) and its role as a major contributor to homelessness.

According to Mission Australia, in the 2018-19 financial year 40% of people in search of accommodation at specialist homelessness services experienced DFV.

When confronted with the terrifying choice of either facing destitution or enduring violent abuse, tragically, DFV victim-survivors can too often end up on the streets.

Helping these vulnerable members of our community became ever more pressing with the onset of COVID-19, when strict rules to remain indoors in isolation became essential to slowing the spread.

The NSW Government responded to this challenge by investing an extra $34 million to boost temporary accommodation and private rental assistance packages.

Those packages included more funds for Rent Choice Start Safely, which gives those escaping DFV up to three years of rental subsidies in the private rental market, as well as access to services and support to help them sustain their tenancy.

I'm pleased to report that almost 630 households have benefited from these extra packages to date. Each one of these households has a story to share, most of which are women and children fleeing abuse.

Empowering these women to sign a lease in their own name and provide other essential supports as they begin the complex journey of healing and recovery is no small thing and something I will never underestimate.

Anyone who is homeless or at risk of homelessness can call Link2home on 1800 152 152, where specialist staff will provide tailored, individual solutions, including temporary accommodation.