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Western Sydney homelessness 'at crisis point' -

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Western Sydney homelessness 'at crisis point'
Lindy Kerin reported this story on Wednesday, October 10, 2012 12:47:00

ELEANOR HALL: A community housing group in Western Sydney is calling for more resources to deal with the problem of Indigenous homelessness.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics last month recalculated its homelessness data and found that Indigenous people are ten times more likely to be homeless than the wider population.

The Wentworth Community Housing organisation says Indigenous homelessness in Western Sydney is at crisis point.

As Lindy Kerin reports.

LINDY KERIN: For the past six years Percy Gordon has been living on the streets.

PERCY GORDON: Bus shelters, sleeping in parks, empty houses, new estates, where they had the roof and stuff, but not necessarily the guts of the house. Where else? Under bridges. I was living at Parramatta Bridge there, under the bridge there for a while.

LINDY KERIN: The young Aboriginal man in his thirties has just got a room at a boarding house.

He's started a TAFE course in drug and alcohol counselling and wants to put to use his experience of living on the streets using heroin, speed and ice.

PERCY GORDON: You're living for the present time and you just can't deal with it so you get wasted and yeah it's a never ending saga so to speak, like a never ending story.

LINDY KERIN: When it comes to Indigenous homelessness, Percy Gordon's story is not an isolated one.
Based on its new definition of homelessness, the Australian Bureau of Statistics found the overall total number of people considered to be homeless was revised down from 105,000 to 90,000.

But it found Indigenous homelessness has risen significantly.

The ABS's Bob McColl.

BOB MCCOLL: Basically, people who have no accommodation alternatives and have housing that is inadequate or is overcrowded, in some way lacks social amenity or they lack tenure, stability of tenure and security of tenure.

The rate for Indigenous people Australia wide per 10,000 in 2006 was 488 Indigenous persons. That compares to 45 persons per 10,000 for the population as a whole, so the Indigenous rate is more than 10 times the national rate.

LINDY KERIN: Overcrowding is a problem community elder Wes Marne is dealing with on a daily basis.

He regularly has more than 10 people staying with him in his three bedroom home.

WES MARNE: There's plenty of room on the floor. And you get in and someone will be sleeping in that chair, one will be in that chair, somebody laying under there.

LINDY KERIN: And you're happy with that? That's okay?

WES MARNE: Well I, we're Indigenous. And we have to look after our own, you know.

LINDY KERIN: The ABS's recalculation has been welcomed by the Wentworth Community Housing group which covers the Penrith, Hawkesbury, Blue Mountains and Blacktown areas.

Its spokeswoman is Steph Brennan.

STEPH BRENNAN: We know anecdotally that there's been such an increase in homelessness. Services have indicated this, elders have told us the story, families that we know are putting up more and more people in their homes.

More Aboriginal people are visiting from remote communities in New South Wales, coming to Western Sydney, trying to find employment, trying to find better housing.

And of course there is none. Because they've come to Western Sydney and we're the most under-resourced part of Sydney, yet we have the biggest proportion of Aboriginal population in the whole of Australia.

We have very, very little funding for Aboriginal homeless programs. We're worried because compared to the inner city of Sydney, there are no funded services out here. So we're a very under-resourced sector is trying their best to outreach and be effective in combating homelessness for the Aboriginal community.

ELEANOR HALL: That's Steph Brennan from the Wentworth Community Housing group in Western Sydney, speaking to Lindy Kerin.