QUESTION: Homelessless in public health emergency

In Question Time, Mark asked the Minister for Human Services about the process of monitoring homelessness in the city during the current public health emergency.


The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: One of my staff members who lives in the city regularly comes across people who are apparently homeless, who are sleeping in doorways and on the street. One location, for example, is in King William Street, just near Parliament House between Rundle Mall and Grenfell Street. My colleague has seen people there on many occasions.

One of the Government's initiatives in relation to homelessness has been to provide emergency hotel accommodation for rough sleepers in Adelaide. This initiative has been roundly supported in the community. It has also shown that homelessness isn't an intractable problem and that everyone can be housed. That was a comment that was made by Baptist Care SA chief executive, Graham Brown, in the media last month.

Of course, homelessness is not a static problem with a static number of people affected. Many people drift into and out of homelessness, and new people join their ranks every single day, so it is impossible at any point in time to know exactly who is or isn't homeless.

In raising this issue, I would just point out that this is not a gotcha moment for the Minister, and I am not criticising the Government's approach, but what I would like the Minister to explain to the house is:

Firstly, what is the process of monitoring homelessness in the city during the current public health emergency?

Secondly, are Government officials or other agency workers patrolling the streets or the Park Lands, looking for rough sleepers; or,

Thirdly, is the Government reliant on reports from the public to find those who are sleeping rough and to offer them accommodation?

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (Minister for Human Services): I thank the honourable member for his question and for his interest in this area. One of the services which is funded for particularly that group of people he is referring to, who are rough sleeping in and around the city, is called the Street to Home project. It is contracted to NEAMI, which is a well-established organisation. They have been operating that contract for some time. They are what we call assertive outreach providers, so they certainly do operate in and around the city and look for people in known places where they sleep rough. So that does operate.

People can actually report to them themselves, which is something that I have certainly done through the Street Connect app—it is not actually an app; it is a website. It enables somebody who comes across someone who is sleeping rough to enter a little bit of information: if the person is awake, you can ask their name and a few details and put that information in. I understand that within some 24 hours the Street to Home staff will check in that area, maybe sooner than that as well. They will actually go and try to connect with that person to offer them assistance.

There is also the Homelessness Gateway, that members of the public or people who are experiencing homelessness can contact. That is another avenue for people to make contact with. So certainly in and around the city we do have very active services. The honourable member referred to Baptist Care. We have obviously got the Hutt St Centre and a range of other services that operate in and around the city that are very actively engaged.

It is worth mentioning that the Adelaide Zero Project, which is under the auspices of the Don Dunstan Foundation, has its By-Name List, which it has been operating since I think May 2017 or thereabouts. That keeps a name of every person who is found to be sleeping rough. It also tracks their outcomes as to whether they are housed—they may come in and out of homelessness, as the honourable member identified in his question—and that assists us to know what is happening with rough sleeping in the city.

I think it is worth mentioning, too, that obviously people who are experiencing homelessness are not all rough sleeping. There are some who may be couch surfing, living in cars, or indeed living in other parts of the state. At the moment the State Government has some 390 people experiencing homelessness in motels, which includes rough sleepers. These people are supported with meals and case management, which has been a great opportunity for them to connect with other services that may be able to assist them. So far we have managed to assist 30 people into longer term housing, and that is a process that we are continuing to work on.

Rough sleeping, as I have said before in this place, is not in the best interests of the individual by any stretch. It has risks. It is bad for health outcomes. So our desire is always to ensure that we can get people into a dwelling with supports to assist them back onto their feet. I hope I have answered all those questions.