The coronavirus pandemic has forced Australian governments to help people sleeping on the streets more urgently, showing the problem can be solved, homelessness advocates say.
Australian Alliance to End Homelessness chief executive David Pearson says about 7000 rough sleepers or people who were in dire risk of losing their accommodation had been temporarily sheltered around the nation in recent months.
About 8200 people were categorised as homeless at the last census, so it was a huge step, he said.
“It shows that if we move and take action quickly, we can solve the problem,” Mr Pearson said on Wednesday.
“It’s hard to be socially distant when people have no place to live.”
Among the most positive programs were Common Ground housing complexes, which include support services, and offer more dignity and safety than overcrowded, dorm-style accommodation, he said.
As part of Western Australia’s maiden 10-year homelessness plan announced late last year, the state government unveiled details of the first Common Ground facility on Wednesday.
It will include at least 70 self-contained apartments and be built across from Wellington Square in East Perth, where many rough sleepers camp, next to the Royal Perth Hospital precinct.
Construction is expected to start in 2021-22, while a final decision on where to build a second Common Ground complex will be announced later this year.
The model originated in New York City more than 20 years ago and has got rough sleepers off the streets over the long term in other Australian cities.
Mr Pearson said more could always be done but WA’s homelessness plan, with its Housing First strategy the central plank, was nation-leading.