More Tasmanians than ever homeless, census data shows, as Labor blasts ‘decades of Liberal neglect’ – ABC News

More Tasmanians than ever homeless, census data shows, as Labor blasts 'decades of Liberal neglect' - ABC News

Sonia Tate lives with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and emphysema.

Having to live in a car with her carer, parking in friends’ and relatives’ driveways or public car parks, makes her feel even worse.

“I wake up crying, break down all the time. You think, ‘Where are you going to have your next feed?'” Ms Tate explained.

“Where are you going to have your next shower? Where are you going to sleep tonight?

“It’s depressing. I’m so depressed. Every day I wake up and I think, ‘What can I do today?’ There’s nothing to do.”

Ms Tate and her carer were living in a rental property near Launceston until 17 months ago, when the owner decided he wanted to live in it instead.

They have tried to secure another rental property, but their income does not go far.

“I’ve tried lots and lots of places, but there’s always 20, 30 people in front, and they’re always willing to offer six months’ rent in advance and offer to pay extra rent as well.”

Homeless Tasmanian Sonia Tate with Peter, her carer, 23 March 2023
Sonia says the predicament she and Peter are in is “depressing”.(ABC News: Chook Brooks)

More struggling to find shelter

This week, the Australian Bureau of Statistics released its 2021 snapshot of homelessness across the nation, which shows the number of Tasmanians experiencing homelessness is continuing to rise.

On census night in 2021, 2,350 people in Tasmania said they were experiencing homelessness, compared with 1,622 on census night in 2016.

That is an extra 728 people, or an increase of 44.8 per cent.

In 2021, 569 people aged 18 or under were homeless on census night, and 325 of those were children aged under 12 years.

Of those, 13 children were sleeping rough, the rest were in some form of accommodation, although still without a permanent home.

A tatooed homeless man with his head down. He's wearing a green long-sleeved shirt and trousers as well as a yellow cap.
The latest census found an increase in homelessness in Tasmania of 44.8 per cent from 2016.(Supplied: Pixabay)

Tasmania has a lower proportion of people experiencing homelessness than all but two other states, but its rate is increasing.

In 2021, 42.1 out of every 10,000 Tasmanians were homeless on census night, compared with 31.8 in 2016 and 31 five years before that.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics — which collects and publishes census data — defines homelessness as sleeping rough, living in an improvised dwelling such as a tent or a car, staying temporarily with other households, living in boarding houses or temporary lodgings, living in severely crowded dwellings, or staying in supported accommodation for the homeless.

Patti Chugg Shelter Tasmania.
Pattie Chugg says “more and more Tasmanians” know of someone looking for a permanent roof over their head.(ABC News: Scott Ross)

‘Shocking trend, going in wrong direction’

Shelter Tasmania chief executive officer Pattie Chugg said the increase in homelessness was very concerning, but not surprising.

“From having the lowest rate of homelessness of all states and territories in previous census years, Tasmania now has the fourth-highest rate of people experiencing homelessness,” Ms Chugg said.

“This shocking trend is going in the wrong direction.”

She said the median cost of renting in Hobart had increased by 60 per cent since 2016 — and was now 11 per cent higher than the median rent in Melbourne.

“With rising rents and cost-of-living pressures, more and more Tasmanians know someone who is finding it hard to get the home they need, or are living with housing hardship themselves.”

A woman holds grocery items
Heather Kent says her charity is having to turn people away.(ABC News: Damian McInytre)

St Vincent De Paul Society Tasmania chief executive Heather Kent said an increasing number of people were seeking emergency food relief and many were homeless.

“[Those items are being] taken back to a tent or to a car, or to a family that’s sharing circumstances with others,” she said.

“We’ve seen calls upon our services grow exponentially, including in recent months.”

Ms Kent said the Bethlehem House homeless shelter for men was often at capacity.

“We are in the unfortunate position of having to turn menfolk away when they seek our support on some occasions.”

A woman wearing a red jacket and glasses smiles at the camera.
Ella Haddad took aim at what she described as a “decade of Liberal neglect at both the state and federal levels”.(ABC News: Luke Bowden)

‘Decade of neglect’

Labor housing spokeswoman Ella Haddad said the number of children experiencing homelessness in Tasmania in 2021 showed the state government had the wrong priorities.

“[It] is a shocking indictment of the Liberal government’s failure over nearly a decade to make housing a priority,” Ms Haddad said.

“The figure represents a more-than-50-per-cent increase in youth homelessness over the past five years.

“This shocking data is simply deplorable and a sign of a decade of Liberal neglect at both the state and federal levels.”

We spend the most, minister says

Tasmanian Housing Minister Guy Barnett said he was saddened that children in Tasmania were experiencing homelessness.

“We know Tasmanians expect that no child should experience homelessness — that is why we are taking action.”

A homeless person lies on a seat.
The Tasmanian government says it recognises the “barriers and challenges families can face in securing safe accommodation”.(ABC News: Giulio Saggin/File)

Mr Barnett said the census data showed hardship, including homelessness, is widespread across Australia, and Tasmania had the third-lowest rate of homelessness in the country.

He said the Tasmanian government was investing record amounts to help vulnerable Tasmanians.

“Tasmania has the highest expenditure of all states for housing and homelessness of $327.92 per person in 2021-22, much high than the national average of $230.62 per person,” Mr Barnett said.

“However, we recognise the barriers and challenges families can face in securing safe accommodation, which is why we invest [more than] $36 million each year in specialist homelessness services.”

The government has committed to spending $1.5 billion to build 10,000 new affordable homes by 2032.

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