Policymakers must stop listening to claims promoted by ‘homeless industry’

Jeremy Sammut

25 January 2019 | The Daily Telegraph

The state government and Sydney City Council can try to the shift the responsibility for the homelessness crisis at the QVB ‘shanty town’, but the blame game will not solve anything.

We won’t stop the most vulnerable addicts and mentally ill people from sleeping rough in doorways and alleys unless governments are prepared to address the real causes of homelessness.

This means policymakers must stop listening to the ridiculous claims and policies promoted by the ‘homeless industry.’

Academics’ and charities’ assertion that we won’t end homelessness without splashing more taxpayer’s money on social housing is absurd.

Australian governments already spend more than $10 billion a year on public housing. Despite this sum, the number of homeless people sleeping on the streets nationally increased from 6810 in 2011 to 8200 in 2016.

Lack of housing is not behind all those who sleep rough. People often end up on the streets because they suffer from serious mental health and substance abuse problems that affect their behaviour and capacity to properly care for themselves.

Outreach services currently offer mental health and drug and alcohol abuse treatment to the rough sleepers; but absurdly, only on a voluntary or opt-in basis — to avoid violating the so-called ‘right’ to sleep rough.

This means in practice, the people who require the most help — those whose judgment is impaired by mental illness and drugs or alcohol abuse — will not choose to get it.

If we really want to end homelessness, we must protect the homeless from themselves; from the bad choices caused by mental illness and substance abuse.

Governments must stop expecting the homeless to help themselves, and instead take a far stronger approach.

Both mental health and drug and alcohol treatment must be made mandatory to ensure the homeless receive the help they need to get permanently off the streets and out of the downward spiral that simply leads to disease, injury and early death.

Jeremy Sammut is the Director of the Culture, Prosperity and Civil Society Program at the Centre for independent Studies.

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