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Thursday, 27 March 2014
Page: 3452

Ms PARKE (Fremantle) (09:48): I would like to take this opportunity to raise the importance of homelessness support services in my electorate, and in doing so to highlight the urgent need for the government to move quickly to extend the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness.

Homelessness is a paralysing condition. It impacts upon or cuts altogether the connections people have to work, education and health services, and community and family life. People experiencing primary homelessness or sleeping rough are really caught up in a day-to-day game of survival. People in unstable or overcrowded housing are enduring conditions in which a focus on employment, education, basic health and emotional wellbeing is forced into the background or off the agenda altogether.

For many Australians this kind of existence is hard to imagine. It is something they might glimpse in a bundled form under the portico of a public building or maybe hear about when their kids mention a friend who cannot host a sleepover because they are already living with another family. There are 100,000 Australians who did not last night and will not tonight and tomorrow night have a place they can call home. For those people the ungraspable reality of a safe and permanent place of their own is what they deal with and think about almost constantly. There are also thousands more who are at risk of homelessness, whether through mental ill health, domestic violence, alcohol and drug abuse issues or people released from prison. At the same time there are people who do not fall into high-risk categories and yet are perhaps only one piece of misfortune, such as family breakdown or losing their job, away from becoming homeless; or, in the case of a young person, one big family blow-up away from leaving home and becoming so.

When I was the Parliamentary Secretary for Homelessness and Social Housing, I mentioned on a couple of occasions the story of a young woman, a single parent who lived in the same street as my electorate office, who went from living in a private rental, to learning that her tenancy would not be renewed because the owner was selling the house, to living with friends while she searched frantically for a house she could afford to rent, to sleeping in her car with her three young children during some incredibly hot Perth summer nights because there simply were no affordable places to rent and the waiting list for state Homeswest housing was seven years. That situation, that story, bears repeating simply because it illustrates the fragility of home for some people and the gravity of coming unstuck from stable housing. It also highlights the impact of homelessness on children.

As the member for Fremantle I have always been engaged with the issues of homelessness, housing stress and housing affordability, because they are clearly present in my community. I value enormously the crisis and homelessness support services that are provided by a range of organisations in my electorate and indeed right around Australia. I implore the government to work urgently with state governments to give those organisations the funding certainty they need. I would also like to take this opportunity to urge colleagues to support The Big Issue, a fortnightly newspaper written by professional journalists which is sold on the streets by homeless people, who receive half of the proceeds of the sale.