Together Home: $36M Project Tackles NSW Rough Sleepers

Written by on 26 June 2020

$36 million has just been dedicated to the largest housing response dedicated to rough sleepers in the history of NSW – the Together Home project.

Described as life-changing by Minister for Families, Communities and Disability Services Gareth Ward, the Together Home project has been designed to support anyone who has experienced rough sleeping, especially in the midst of a pandemic.

“Throughout the COVID-19 response, we’ve worked hard to keep rough sleepers safe. Now we’re working to get them into homes with the support they need to rebuild their lives,” said Mr Ward.

The program will deliver much-needed support to the homeless by rapidly securing homes from the private rental market, where the average median rental cost is $520 per week.

Described as the “largest single investment made to tackle rough sleeping in NSW.” Mr Ward claims the intensive response will “pack many months’ of work into just weeks, as we strive to transition people from temporary accommodation into secure housing.”

Half the funds will be directed to wraparound services such as mental health support, while the rest will go towards the purchase of homes from the market.

Housing support available for rough sleepers | NSW Government

The new Together Home project will provide housing and essential support services to people experiencing homelessness in NSW.

According to 2016 Census data, there were roughly 2600 rough sleepers in NSW, accounting for 7% of the state’s homeless. A number that Premier Gladys Berejiklian hopes to half by 2025 after signing up to a global agreement in 2019.

“I am keen to meet that target for some of our most vulnerable people – and go further.”

Homelessness NSW CEO Katherine McKernan said the sector has worked hard in recent months to get additional funding for their housing-first model, which has placed more than 1200 rough sleepers into hotels since 1 April.

Secure housing that many believe could be achieved by redirecting funds from the recently announced homebuilders initiative which will see $688 million put towards home renovations.

The scheme will hand-out $25,000 cash grants for home-owners to renovate their properties or build new homes and is expected to cover upwards of 30,000 grants.

In comparison, the partnership between the NSW Government, Community Housing Providers, Specialist Homelessness Services and health services, could be funded 19 times by the HomeBuilders grant.

Considering both projects have come about in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, with Treasurer Josh Frydenberg telling ABC News Breakfast the $100 billion dollar housing sector is critically important to the economy.

“It is also employing hundreds of thousands of people as well, including sparkies and plumbers and carpenters, people we want to put back to work, to put them off the income supports that they have been getting through the crisis.”

The treasury reported a forecasted shortfall of 30,000 new dwelling commencements for the second half of 2020, forcing the government to come up with this scheme.

Labor MP Tanya Plibersek believes that now is the time to be building “crisis accommodation” and create “greater security in rental accommodation as well.”

“People are very worried about being thrown out of their rental accommodation if they lose their job. We absolutely recognise the critical role construction plays in our economy. But this program after all the hype I suppose it’s fair to say there are some missed opportunities here.”

Perhaps we should instead be looking to Tasmania where the government has just announced a $1.8 billion infrastructure project which includes $100 million for 1000 social housing dwellings.

When asked about social housing, Frydenberg referred to existing policies on social housing, declaring it a “combined responsibility with the states”.

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