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Move to shift rough sleepers from motels to housing after lockdown

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Members of more than 300 households impacted by homelessness or domestic violence have been accommodated in motels during South Australia’s seven-day lockdown, with the State Government promising to transition as many of those as possible into stable housing.

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A State Government spokesperson told InDaily that members of 310 households that were sleeping rough or experiencing violence or abuse at home when the lockdown started last Tuesday night were moved into temporary motel accommodation.

They were provided with food provisions from the Hutt Street Centre, Westcare and Anglicare, while mental health organisation Sonder offered support to those who needed it.

Human Services Minister Michelle Lensink said those who want to engage with services would continue to be supported once the lockdown lifts at one minute past midnight tonight.

She said the Government would “prioritise clients into housing”, including public or community housing, boarding houses or supported and transitional accommodation.

“Our number one priority was ensuring our most vulnerable South Australians were safe and supported during the state-wide lockdown and like our approach last year, those who have been accommodated will continue to receive support post lockdown if they want it,” Lensink said.

“Ultimately, we want to see as many people housed as possible.”

During the height of the pandemic last year, the Government moved 250 people experiencing homelessness from motel accommodation into longer-term housing.

However, not everyone who was placed into motel accommodation was moved into stable housing, with the Government reporting as many as 542 people experiencing homelessness were in motels in July last year.

SA Housing Authority chief executive Michael Buchan told a parliamentary committee hearing last year that approximately 140 of those were later evicted due to problem behaviour, or voluntarily chose to leave.

The Opposition has accused the Government of using “stop gap measures” to address homelessness, with human services spokesperson Nat Cook warning that those put up in temporary accommodation during the lockdown could be sent back onto the streets.

“This program is providing no long-term or short-term solutions for people who are homeless,” she said.

“Hotel rooms are not homes. What is this government actually doing to house these people?

“After last year’s hotel program, when the Government said they would not return people to the streets, they did.”

Lensink said after the lockdown ends, homelessness support organisations that are funded under the State Government’s homeless alliances model would work with Housing SA to “prioritise clients into housing”.

“Each Alliance is engaging with clients regarding their housing and support needs, to support everyone who wants support, and working together to prioritise clients into housing,” she said.

“This coordinated process will ensure housing outcomes are prioritised to the most vulnerable cohorts, including rough sleepers and women and families whose safety is at risk.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us what we can achieve when we work together to achieve a common goal and I commend everyone for their hard work that has so far produced some fantastic outcomes.”

InDaily reported last week that calls to the state’s 24/7 homelessness service had surged by 300 per cent since the lockdown was announced.

Latest figures from the Adelaide Zero Project show that as of May, there were 119 people in the city who were sleeping rough.

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