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Homelessness is not inevitable

Homelessness is not inevitable

Homelessness is not inevitable

4 August 2022

Jeffrey Milne, Senior Policy and Advocacy Advisor, Policy Research and Social Justice for The Salvation Army Australia, explains the need for a new national housing and homelessness plan.

As the largest provider of homelessness services in Australia, The Salvation Army annually provides 887,500 crisis beds and more than 309,800 sessions of care to people who are at risk of or experiencing homelessness, as well as a range of services in areas such as family and domestic violence. However, much more is needed to address the complex issues around homelessness and housing availability. This Homelessness Week (1-7 August 2022), Jeffrey Milne, Senior Policy and Advocacy Advisor, Policy Research and Social Justice for The Salvation Army Australia, explains the need for a new national housing and homelessness plan. 


By Jeffery Milne

Over many decades, The Salvation Army has witnessed the drivers and consequences of housing insecurity and homelessness across the country through its extensive homelessness and community housing services, family and domestic violence and youth services. This is in addition to providing Doorways emergency relief, Moneycare financial counselling, and alcohol and other drug services.

From our frontline service delivery experience, supported by abundant external research, data and reports, the Salvos have formed the clear view that unaffordable housing and homelessness needs to be addressed by developing a national housing and homelessness plan.

We welcome the Albanese Government’s housing policy platform and its commitment to a housing and homelessness plan.

National plan

Within the context of rising housing insecurity and homelessness resulting from unprecedented property price increases, the lack of affordable private rentals and critical social housing deficits, these drivers of homelessness are not just a blip on the radar. The current landscape now requires a deep and multidimensional response – a national one – in the form of a comprehensive national housing and homelessness plan (National Plan).

The development of a National Plan could provide the framework to consider the critical areas of homelessness need, at-risk cohorts and population dynamics and set clear, achievable and measurable goals to improve Australians’ access to secure and affordable housing and eradicate homelessness.

This National Plan would outline what investment in the supply of affordable and social housing is necessary, with clear responsibility for state and Commonwealth input. It would also bring together the economic and social levers for change.

A Commonwealth-led National Plan would work to align state and territory housing strategies with the plan. The role of state governments in planning, development and many other aspects of service delivery could be integrated nationally to ensure maximum benefit to those along the housing spectrum.

To be effective, the Salvos believe that a new National Plan must consider a range of elements, including the following:

Engaging relevant stakeholders and portfolio areas 

  • Draw together key policy portfolio and funding areas across all three levels of government that impact housing affordability and homelessness.
  • Engage research and evaluation experts, practice experts, and people with lived experience.

Evidence and research 

  • Investigate the structural causes of poverty, homelessness and housing unaffordability through a review addressing the adequacy of income support, Commonwealth Rent Assistance (CRA) and other supplements.
  • Research for innovative housing models and strategies.

Targets, data, outcomes, reporting and evaluation 

  • Commit to eradicating homelessness, with clear targets to achieve that goal.
  • Commit to clear social and affordable housing targets that are ambitious and proportionate to needs.

Cohorts and young people

  • Fully recognise the many different cohorts, their current and projected numbers and specific housing and support needs.
  • Acknowledge the unique housing-related issues and homelessness among young people and ensure an adjunct/stand-alone strategy.

Budget and investment

  • Develop shared funding, co-investment and incentives needed to grow social housing in partnership with business and the not-for-profit sector.

With the housing affordability crisis knowing no apparent end, the emergence of newly affected cohorts, the risks arising from increases in interest rates and critical public housing infrastructure that has been left in decline for decades, deep, long-term and multidimensional reform is urgently needed.

As a society, we don’t have to accept that unaffordable housing and homelessness are inevitable and beyond our control. Therefore, the Salvos are calling on the Albanese Government to develop a National Housing and Homelessness Plan that has the depth and breadth to end homelessness now and into the future.

Segments of this article first appeared in Council to Homeless Persons’ Parity magazine – and have been updated following the 2022 federal election.

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