"Having a place to call home is essential for personal security, for the stability and flourishing of families, the education of children and the health and wellbeing of each family member. ... A place to call home is indispensable to our sense of self." This was stated in the 2018-2019 Social Justice Statement released by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference Social Justice Council, A Place to Call Home: Making a Home for Everyone in our Land.
In that same statement, the Bishops, speaking on behalf of the Catholic Church in Australia, and all of the organisations, parishes and individuals working to reduce homelessness, reinforced the call for governments - local, state and national - to address the structural causes of homelessness, and to accept a shared social responsibility.
1) A national housing strategy: more low-cost properties mean more choices, making it cheaper and easier to find a home. 500,000 new low-cost rental homes are needed to meet the demand for affordable housing.
2) Support for first home buyers: resetting our tax system to make it fairer for ordinary Australians wanting to buy a home
3) A better deal for renters: Get rid of “no grounds” evictions and unfair rent rises so that millions of Australian renters have the security they need to create homes, build lives and raise families.
4) Immediate relief for Australians in chronic rental stress: Increase Commonwealth Rent Assistance for the thousands of Australians who are struggling to pay the rent.
5) A plan to end homelessness by 2030: With real effort we can halve homelessness in five years - and end it in 10 years.
Catholic Social Services Victoria also supports the #RaiseTheRateForGood
campaign, which is calling for a raise in the Newstart allowance, thereby reducing the stress on people not being able to afford rent and increased living costs, which is a cause of homelessness. There are a range of actions individuals, groups or organisations can take, to support this campaign. Click here
In April 2020, CSSV sent a submission to the Parliament of Victoria Legislative Council's Legal and Social Issues Committee, Inquiry into Homelessness in Victoria
. In this submission, CSSV listed a number of recommendations to the Victorian government, including:
1) Establishing mechanisms to better integrate policy between housing and other parts of the service system: domestic violence, child protection, mental health, disability and justice;
2) Increase funding to homelessness services to assist them in meeting current demand
3) Increase long-term investment to ensure the provision of at least an additional 3,000 new social and public housing dwellings per year for the next 10 years
At a local, diocesan level, there are a number of parish communities who also provide support for those experiencing homelessness and housing stress. In this 2018 report - Victorian Catholic Social Housing
- it was found that 42 parishes and four religious orders were providing housing at low cost for approximately 404 people in 201 dwellings. This report is part of a broader initiative to assist and encourage the Catholic Church in Victoria to further address the housing needs of vulnerable people, particularly through the utilisation of Church land.
In today’s context, we acknowledge the work done to date, however, there is still much to be done, and we all have a roll to play in helping to mobilise national action on a national crisis.