One of Australia's largest health care organisations has welcomed the Federal Government's renewed funding commitment to the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness (NPAH) and called on the states and territories to meet their obligations under the deal.
St Vincent's Health Australia (SVHA) – which is a partner in the NPAH-funded Way2Home homeless program in inner Sydney and whose public hospitals in Darlinghurst and Fitzroy are both ‘ground zero' for hundreds of rough sleepers seeking health care every year – said the Commonwealth's commitment was essential in the nation's fight against homelessness.
"This funding is absolutely crucial," said SVHA's CEO, Toby Hall. "What's particularly welcome is Minister Morrison breaking from recent history and making a two-year funding commitment which will give services and staff important certainty.
"We also congratulate the Minister on his emphasis on funding services that are backed up by evidence; that show they are really making a difference in people's lives by either preventing or ending homelessness."
Mr Hall – who was previously CEO of homeless organisation, Mission Australia, for eight years – said while he welcomed the Minister's announcement that funding priority would be given to services focusing on women and children fleeing family violence, along with homeless youth, it was important not to do so at the expense of other vulnerable groups.
"While we absolutely support that focus, we can't leave other vulnerable groups short of the support they need.
"For example, in February, the City of Sydney's bi-annual street count of homeless people – which records the number of people bedding down in the city's streets, parks and public places – found 365 people sleeping rough.
"That's the largest number of rough sleepers recorded by the count in five years – since February 2010 (418) – and is a 23% increase on August 2014 (296).
"Certainly from what we're experiencing at our Darlinghurst hospital, the number of homeless people needing health care services in Sydney's inner city is on the increase.
"Unless NPAH-funding continues to flow towards services supporting rough sleepers, then we're likely to see numbers increase further, which would be a disastrous outcome," said Mr Hall.