Independent Member for Sydney Alex Greenwich, MP, said that homelessness in NSW has reached unprecedented crisis levels, with around 38,000 people experiencing homelessness in the state. That’s an increase of 37 per cent since the 2011 Census of Population and Housing, Mr Greenwich said.
“The homelessness crisis has reached epidemic levels in NSW and now must be considered a state emergency. The stories behind the statistics are heart-breaking,” Mr Greenwich said.
“We know that almost a third of people accessing homelessness services are women and children escaping domestic violence.
“In my own constituency, I’ve heard countless accounts of young LGBTI people getting kicked out of home, some forced to subsequently trade sex for shelter.”
The MP said that he has met disability pensioners living in run-down and often unsafe boarding houses, who have been either discriminated against or priced out of the private rental market.
“People do not choose to be homeless — the people who I’ve met experiencing homelessness are just like you and me but have often had a series of bad luck, have no safe place to go, and their health and safety is at risk,” the MP said.
Mr Greenwich, who features in the upcoming SBS documentary Filthy Rich and Homeless, is calling on Premier Gladys Berejiklian for a state of emergency on homelessness, just as she would for a bushfire, flood or natural disaster.
There are international precedents for taking emergency action on homelessness. Los Angeles declared a “shelter crisis” based on the threat to the health and safety of its 28,000 people living without a home.
“Tens of thousands of people are currently at risk and just like a bushfire, homelessness can burn through a person’s entire life, and like a flood, it can wash away all hope,” the MP said.
Mr Greenwich is calling on the Premier to use her powers to lead a coordinated whole of government and urgent response to the issue of homelessness, including a combination of short and long-term solutions.