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Australia’s rising homeless population is shining the spotlight on how unprepared the government is to deal with this growing problem. The sharp rise in homelessness is putting the strain on already overburdened public services, leaving people without access to shelter or food. In 2015 an average of 200 homeless people were turned down by homeless shelters every day, forcing them to fend for themselves. This problem is forcing the government to increase their spending programs to help satiate homeless shelters’ desperate demands for more funds. Meanwhile private organizations are coming up with innovative ways to address this eye opening social problem.
“The fact that 221 people were turned away from help per day in the past year is alarming and shows that we simply are not doing enough to prevent people from falling into homelessness and providing support for them when they do,” ACOSS acting chief executive Tessa Boyd-Caine said.“We are hopeful that the Government will sharpen its focus on housing and homelessness issues this year, and deliver substantial new investment in the May budget to alleviate housing stress and reduce homelessness.”
The alarming number of homeless people needing assistance is forcing us as a society to confront this inconvenient truth. Last year the government spent a whopping $700 million on homeless shelters, which was $80 million more than the year before. Despite the fact that the government has increased its spending on homeless services the amount of homeless people without shelter is still growing. 220 people a day were refused shelter due to lack of space in 2015. To add insult to injury another 90 homeless people each day were unable to obtain other types of basic help, including food access or financial assistance.
In Australia alone 2.5 million people have experienced homelessness at some point in their lives. A shocking 17 per cent of these people are children under the age of 12, with an additional 25 per cent who became homelessness between the age of 12 and 25. An outrageous two fifths of people experiencing homelessness are currently staying in severely overcrowded public dwellings, with six per cent being forced to sleep on the streets. The Australian Council of Social Services said Australia’s homelessness crisis has been compounded by the tragic fact that there’s still no national strategy in place to tackle this complicated problem.
The government’s inability to take care of the homeless has inspired some organizations to tackle the problem themselves. Even though there are currently over 350,000 services available to the homeless across Australia, connecting the needy to available programs has proven to be a daunting task. Even though studies from the University of Sidney have shown that over 80% of homeless people have smartphones it’s still extremely hard for people to find help. Luckily for them now there’s a website that promises to easily connect them with these services. Google, REA Group, Infoxchange & News Corp Australia have all teamed up to produce Ask Izzy, a site that will give the homeless a much needed advantage. The site connects people with food, shelter & support with its intricate location based online directory. The website has been hailed by critics around the world as an innovative tool to combat this rising problem.
Although the effects of Ask Izzy are still being researched, it does give hope for those who are suffering. For too long we have swept the homeless under the rug with outdated programs that do nothing but perpetuate the problem. We can’t expect that by blindly throwing money into the same programs we will solve this issue. The only hope for change is the birth of creative ways to help tackle this growing social epidemic.
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