Cuts will put ‘hundreds at risk’

CATHOLICCARE and the St Vincent de Paul Society in the Archdiocese have joined forces in calling on the Federal Government to reconsider its intention to axe $1.3 billion from the National Affordable Housing Agreement.

Both organisations provide emergency and short-term accommodation services to homeless men, and work closely to ensure their housing services are filled as soon as a bed becomes available.

They provide meals, emergency relief, housing and tenancy support, drop-in centres and outreach services to youth at risk, offering a range of services to help those in need break the cycle of homelessness.

The Federal Government has argued that the national agreement has failed to deliver any meaningful outcomes.

Archdiocesan CatholicCare CEO Anne Kirwan and St Vincent de Paul Society CEO Barnie van Wyk strongly disagree.

“These monies are used in Canberra to fund nearly 50 homelessness and domestic family violence services as well as provide maintenance and repairs to 11,000 public housing properties,” Ms Kirwan said.

“Three of CatholicCare’s homelessness services are funded by the National Affordable Housing Agreement, as are five of the St Vincent de Paul Society programs.

“Both organisations are concerned that possible cuts will leave hundreds of Canberrans at risk.”

Mr van Wyk and Ms Kirwan believe they have statistics that prove their organisations are making good use of the funding.

“In 2015-16 the society provided support to 810 individuals and families, 33,973 bed nights and 44,145 meals for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness,” Mr van Wyk said.

“Many people we support have gone through significant trauma, such as domestic and family violence, abuse, loss and addiction, and for many of these people Vinnies is the last option.

“We work with the most vulnerable and challenging members of our community and we do it because nobody else is there for them, and they deserve the love and support many of us take for granted.”

Ms Kirwan said through National Affordable Housing Agreement funding, in 2015-16 CatholicCare provided 1998 bed nights and support to 480 individuals and families at risk in the ACT.

“It’s unbelievable, at a time when housing is so difficult to access, and we see more and more vulnerable people sleeping rough in our town, that the Federal Government is considering this as a possible option,” she said.

“Clearly there is a lack of understanding of what we do on a daily basis with this funding.”

Mr van Wyk urged the Federal Government to provide leadership by setting a clear plan, backing it with the required funding needed to support people experiencing homelessness and those at risk of it.

“If the National Affordable Housing Agreement was scrapped it would have significant consequences to the funding of our programs that support those in need – possibly leaving hundreds of people without anywhere to turn to or anyone to help them,” he said.

“Each day our services are at full capacity – this is a time to increase funding and make long-lasting change rather than cut funding.”