The number of homeless in Perth has jumped 12 per cent over five years and the number of rough sleepers is rising even faster, up 17 per cent in the same time.
A lack of affordable housing, Federal Government policy changes that have cut support payments and rents that have risen faster than inflation have been blamed for a spike in homelessness across the country.
A report to be released today finds national homelessness rates increased 14 per cent between 2011 and 2016 and rough sleeping rose 20 per cent. The country’s population rose 9 per cent over the same time period.
It also found a big increase in the number of elderly homeless people, up 28 per cent.
The report, a monitor of homelessness intended to be updated every two years, is a joint venture between community agency Launch Housing, the University of NSW and the University of Queensland. It pulled together data from the Census, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and council rough sleeper counts.
Lead researcher Hal Pawson said until recently rates of homelessness had remained “pretty much flat” for a decade.
“The last five years … homelessness numbers are quite different,” he said. “Something new is taking place and it’s something we should be concerned about.”
Professor Pawson said part of the problem was because government changes to support payments, including the disability support pension, have left recipients with less money.
Tough benefit sanctions can also be the difference for someone being able to pay their rent or being pushed out on to the street, he said.
The report’s conclusions were based on 2016 figures but there is little indication that Perth’s homelessness problem has improved since. The West Australian reported last month that complaints about homeless people in the City of Perth rose 78 per cent in 2017.
Launch Housing chief executive Tony Keenan said the figures were “a national disgrace”. He said it showed a clear link between government policies and homelessness.
“No one in Australia should be without a home and there are things that everyone can do to help,” he said. “This is the first time we’ve been able to connect all these dots to inform a fully fledged picture of why homelessness is such a dire issue.”