More people with disability seeking support for homelessness

Posted 1 year ago by Anna Christian
Many people with disability in need of housing not only can’t afford rentals, but also struggle to find housing that meets accessibility requirements. [Source: Unsplash]
Many people with disability in need of housing not only can’t afford rentals, but also struggle to find housing that meets accessibility requirements. [Source: Unsplash]

Statistics from the Australian Institute of Health Welfare (AIHW) released today show the number of people with disability accessing specialist homelessness services is increasing by hundreds each year.

In 2021-22, 7,300 people with disability sought help from these services, compared to 7,000 in 2020-21 and 6,700 in 2019-20.

Not only is the number of people accessing services increasing, but many are not receiving the support they need through these services.

When first seeking support, 43 percent of people with disability were homeless – with the remainder at risk of homelessness – but almost one-third (32 percent) ended their support period still homeless.

Anglicare Australia Executive Director Kasy Chambers says given the trend in other statistics and the lack of focus on improving them, the new AIHW figures are not a surprise.

“For years, Australians with disability have been left behind when it comes to housing,” says Ms Chambers.

“Anglicare Australia’s most recent Rental Affordability Snapshot found just 51 rentals that were affordable for a person on the Disability Support Pension out of almost 46,000 listings. That means that 99.9 percent of rental homes are out of reach.”

Ms Chambers says the biggest issue driving more people into homelessness is affordability, as the costs used to determine the number of rentals available already include the highest rates of rent assistance available.

So even with all the financial Government support available, the affordable housing needed to meet demand and address homelessness is not there.

“Today’s figures show us the consequences of that rental crisis,” says Ms Chambers. 

“People are getting pushed into homelessness because they just can’t afford to keep a roof over their head.”

Aside from skyrocketing costs, Ms Chambers says people with disability are also faced with the added challenge of finding a house that is accessible and liveable for them.

“Even those [homes] that are affordable might not meet the needs of people with disabilities – many are not accessible, and most are rooms in sharehouses,” she says.

In order to address the housing crisis, Ms Chambers says there needs to be action on building social housing.

“If we don’t invest in affordable, disability-friendly homes, too many young people with disabilities will end up living their lives in aged care,” she explains.

“It’s time to act and help people with disabilities find a home.”

Anglicare Australia has previously released a roadmap for social and affordable housing that calls for 300,000 new social housing properties and 200,000 low-cost rentals over the next 20 years.

However, the current Federal Labor Government’s housing plan is only expected to cover building 30,000 social and affordable houses in the next two years, with the State Governments building 15,000 more.

The plan includes all new housing to be built to a minimum accessible standard, so more people with disability can find suitable affordable housing and better avoid homelessness, but this has also not been accepted in all States and will not be implemented in New South Wales or Western Australia.