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Homelessness Inquiry: Reflection on Week One of Hearings

27 May 2022

This week was largely spent on the Inquiry into Homelessness. Over three days of hearings we heard from service providers big and small, all doing good work, all concerned the homelessness  crisis was getting worse despite their heroic efforts.

It’s an inquiry run by the Committee on Estimates and Financial Operations, of which I am a member. The Estimates Committee is the only bit of the WA Parliament the ALP don’t have the numbers and control.

But this means that the inquiry necessarily has a finance angle to it. In fact, it’s officially called “Inquiry into the financial administration of homelessness services in Western Australia”. But this lens is proving enlightening and at the end of the week these numbers have stuck in my head:

“WA expenditure on homelessness services per person was $33.83, compared to the national average of $47.49 and $76.46 in Victoria”.

The richest state in the nation is spending the least. This is one big reason we have a system in crisis, a system seeing more people fall into homelessness than put into home. We simply aren’t funding appropriately. This is, ironically, making the bits we do fund less efficient, as bottles necks are created in crisis and transitional housing.

One week into the inquiry it is becoming apparent that there’s plenty of room for improvement – starting with resourcing the sector appropriately.

People sleeping out the front of full crisis shelters. Behind these numbers are families sleeping in tents. Women unable to escape domestic violence. Children unable to go to school.

I’m hoping where we land is a constructive, evidence-based report that is support by all sides of politics. One that sees homelessness, housing and key services properly funded. Funding that will see the most vulnerable adequately looked after. Funding that will ultimately save government and community money. I’ll keep you updated.


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