How a global pandemic is a catalyst for new solutions to end homelessness

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How a global pandemic is a catalyst for new solutions to end homelessness

Written by Alischa Ross | 6th July 2020

While there is simply no debate for the ongoing enormity of negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been some shining examples of how pressure to respond has been a catalyst for new solutions to complex problems.

We know too well that for far too long, homelessness has been an escalating problem relegated to the ‘too hard basket’ in cities across the globe, including our own backyard. While many organisations have long championed the mission to end homelessness, it has been the unexpected and unprecedented consequence of protecting our collective health that has seen strengthened alliances leverage the political will to move us closer towards this reality.

We have all faced the challenge of being told to ‘stay home’ to protect ourselves, but how many of us have stopped to think about what that might mean when you’re homeless and have no safe space to isolate?

Over the past months, many countries, including Australia, the UK and New Zealand have invested in putting rough sleepers up in hotels. Though driven by the need for quick solutions to maintain public health and safety, what has transpired is the revelation that, when we make homelessness a priority and we work collectively, we can in fact find solutions.

In capital cities across Australia it took only a matter of days to see thousands of people sleeping on the street provided with safe accommodation, and it is these recent actions that could hold the key to scalable, long-term solutions to safe, secure housing for all.

In an interview with the ABC, CEO of Launch Housing Bevan Warner describes the pandemic as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to end homelessness by transitioning rough sleepers from previously inaccessible options such as hotels and empty student accommodation directly into permanent housing.

“Complex problems can have simple solutions hidden in plain sight.” Bevan Warner

While governments might have been driven by a desire to solve a different problem, it seems that an opportunity to end homelessness has emerged from the current momentum.

Since 2013, the Australian Alliance to End Homelessness (AAEH) has united experts and organisations committed to this goal. Most recently, the AAEH has championed the call for a coordinated national response to end rough sleeping across the country with its Pandemic Response Plan submitted to the federal parliamentary inquiry into homelessness in Australia.

AAEH’s plan estimates a government investment of $49.4 million in the first year would provide 2,500 people currently in temporary accommodation with an immediate home in the form of a private rental property with support, an investment that they predict will return more than $26 million in government savings in health and justice over time.

While no state and territory government has yet confirmed their plans to continue long-term investment in scaling up our response to end homelessness, no government has said they plan to end their support either.

The AAEH’s plan to end homelessness focuses on six elements and the holistic and collaborative efforts that are required to prevent and end it:

  1. Homelessness – prevention and early intervention
  2. National rough sleeper housing and support: Advance to Zero
  3. Increased safe and affordable housing
  4. Increased permanent supportive housing
  5. Essential links between health and housing
  6. Partner to achieve the vision for ending homelessness in Australia.

Think Impact is committed to supporting access to safe, secure and equitable housing. Launch Housing is one of many organisations we work with in this sector.