The Guardian • Issue #2049

NSW: More people sleeping rough

One of the many arches that are part of the aqueduct that goes over Wentworth Park Glebe. These arches are filling up with the homeless while just a short distance away public housing remains empty. Photo: Denis Doherty.

Homelessness in Sydney has been steadily growing. Years of NSW neoliberal governments have created a perfect storm of conditions that lead to homelessness.

It is obvious that the numbers of homeless people in Sydney are growing. Martin Place in the central business district is a busy thoroughfare during the day, but as night approaches the homeless with their trolleys and bags of belongings fill the square. 

Sydney has several events that highlight homelessness.

The City of Sydney does an annual head count of people sleeping rough. This year, the count was 277 people. That’s a 23 per cent increase since last year.

In several States, the St Vincent’s Society organises business leaders who sleep in the open to raise money for homelessness services. The new NSW Labor Premier Chris Minns joined this year’s sleep out in Sydney.

While their intentions may be good, dealing with homelessness requires real structural change at government level. Governments must give priority to investing in constructing far more public housing.  More than 57,000 people are on the waiting list for social housing in NSW, a massive indictment on years of neoliberal governments. 

Homelessness is not the fault of individuals but is an indicator of our society’s lack of care for those who struggle to find a home. Current high rents and the growing cost of living are factors in the rise in homelessness. 

“These figures won’t go down unless we tackle the causes of homelessness,” Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore said.

“The pandemic exposed and exacerbated existing inequality, and highlighted how precarious access to housing, food and financial support is for many,” the Lord Mayor said.

Public housing is cost effective. The homeless become entangled in the health and justice systems as their well-being deteriorates. Once a person has a home, a base from which to engage with or retreat from the world, their physical and mental health improves.

The Communist Party of Australia (CPA) has been campaigning for years for governments to invest in public housing as this is where the housing crisis can be solved.

The CPA knows that public housing can provide a home for people who have sunk below the poverty line. It can also be opened to essential workers and those on low incomes.  The present policy of restricting public housing to the most disadvantaged is creating pools of disadvantage.

It is an outrage that we are told that public housing must pay for itself, but the public purse is ripped off for billions of dollars for nuclear submarines.

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