Every night there are over 100,000 people experiencing homelessness (2016 ABS Census). Over the years, there have been many attempts to respond to the problem but it remains persistent and unresolved.
In outer Western Sydney, there is an initiative to address this overwhelming community concern. Heading Home, brainchild of Wentworth Community Housing, is a collaboration of community organisations, businesses and individuals who are working towards ending homelessness across the Hawkesbury, Blue Mountains and Nepean communities.
In 2016-17, Heading Home identified people who were homeless through a “Registry Week” to capture a picture of people who were sleeping rough or couch surfing in the district.
Ninety one people, including 12 families, were interviewed as part of Registry Week. A further 44 people were identified but chose not to be interviewed, totaling 135 people experiencing street homelessness that week in Penrith, the Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury.
Ending homelessness means finding homes. The wait times for social housing are 10+ years and government is not increasing its property portfolio.
With NSW experiencing an increase of 37% in homelessness – the highest increase of any State or Territory in Australia – according to the ABS Census data released on 15 March 2018, Heading Home is now focused on initiatives that can help generate new low cost housing.
The Heading Home project is working with real estate agents, mainstream and homelessness services, local and state government to generate innovative housing solutions. The group started with open-minded thinking for housing that is low cost and don’t take years to get off the ground – we want to be nimble and take advantage of community assets.
Together we’re working on innovative solutions such as a pilot tiny homes project and an Expo in the Blue Mountains to encourage home owners to build secondary dwellings or garden flats.
Tiny Homes is the housing solution that most caught the imagination from the Community briefings after Registry Week. Over 80 people voted for a Tiny Homes Pilot Project and there has been great community support following media on the proposal and interest from local city councils.
We are pursuing land that has been set aside for a future use, but is sitting vacant, to establish a pilot tiny homes project to trial the model for three to five years.
We will hold an EXPO on 10 November in the Blue Mountains with the aim to open a new rental market for people on low income and those exiting homelessness.
The EXPO will provide interested homeowners with a range of information to stimulate the building and development of small studios. Landlords and homeowners will also be introduced to a number of packages for them to rent their studios to those exiting homelessness or who are at risk of being homeless.
We want to develop a housing locator for underperforming properties in the private housing market through to the informal or secondary housing market, which includes granny flats, share houses, holiday rental properties and informal lettings.
While we wait on funds for this project, we invite you to contact us in case you have a property or know of one that could be rented to people exiting homelessness or who are at risk of being homeless.
Read our Heading Home Stage 1 Report, which provides a snapshot of homelessness across Penrith, Hawkesbury and the Blue Mountains Local Government Areas. Alternatively, read the four page summary with an overview of the report.
For more information or to get involved, contact our Heading Home Project Manager, Eva Gerencer, on 0427 926 588 or email email@example.com