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Domestic violence a big issue with city homeless

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Just under half of Adelaide CBD’s rough sleepers have experienced or are currently at risk of domestic or family violence, with the overwhelming majority being men, a recent survey has found.

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According to findings from the Adelaide Zero Project’s second annual Connections Week survey – conducted this week – 48 per cent of rough sleepers in Adelaide reported experiencing or being at risk of domestic violence.

Of those, 32 per cent were female and 68 per cent were male.

The findings were labelled as “confronting” by Don Dunstan Foundation executive director David Pearson, whose organisation spearheads the Adelaide Zero Project.

“Given that 48 per cent figure is so high, the prevalence of domestic violence amongst males and females would be astronomically high and it would be a lot higher than it normally would be for men,” he told InDaily.

“These are vulnerable people so for the women on the street, they’re in dire circumstances and for almost the majority I would have thought domestic violence would be involved.

“Interestingly though, we also picked up during Connections Week that there were a large proportion of men who have been subject to violence in family settings.”

The gender breakdown can in part be explained by the predominance of men facing street homelessness.

Of the 227 people who were found to be sleeping rough in Adelaide this week, 71 per cent were men and 23 per cent were female, with the remaining six per cent choosing not to identify their gender.

The overall homelessness figure was up from 143 at the same time last year.

Pearson said this week’s survey marked the first time Adelaide Zero Project had enquired about people’s history of domestic violence.

“We knew there was an issue with domestic violence and that’s why we asked the question to demonstrate to the community that this is why we need to do something about this,” he said.

“Homelessness on the street is as much an issue about domestic violence, as is much an issue about mental health, as it is housing.”

At an Adelaide Zero Project community briefing last night, a woman who had experienced domestic violence and stalking said she was forced into homelessness after moving to Adelaide from interstate.

“Moving from interstate for safety, I didn’t meet the criteria for domestic violence services here in South Australia, so that led to me remaining on the streets for a while until someone provided me with that support,” she said.

Of the 227 people found to be sleeping rough this week:

“One of the things we know is there is unmet need for almost all problems – health, domestic violence, substance abuse,” Pearson said.

“We need to do a better job of connecting services as well as improving the services that are already out there.”

Pearson said the SA Housing Authority had helped provide 161 new housing placements since May last year, but he said “housing ramping” continued to hamper progress towards getting more rough sleepers into secure housing.

“In the homelessness system, yes we need to build more houses, but we also need to make the housing system work better,” he said.

“When we can create vacancies in the emergency housing system, then we can get people off the street and into those vacant places.”

Adelaide City Council voted in March to provide $200,000 in contingent funding to the Adelaide Zero Project, following the release of a report from the Institute of Global Homelessness identifying what was required for Adelaide to achieve “functional zero homelessness” by 2020.

The report recommended funding be provided for a “rough sleeper coordinator” within the SA Housing Authority, short-term financial grants for private rental leases, and the creation of a centralised service hub staffed by health and social support workers.

The SA Housing Authority said it would consider the report’s recommendations in the development of the state’s new Housing and Homelessness Strategy, which is currently being drafted.

In a letter penned to Human Services Minister Michelle Lensink in March – seen by InDaily – the Don Dunstan Foundation estimated the total cost of implementing the Global Institute’s recommendations to be $1,292,000.

Pearson today called on the Federal Government to contribute funding to the Adelaide Zero Project through the Adelaide City Deal, which was signed off between the Adelaide City Council, and state and federal governments in March.

“The idea of those city deals is for local, state and federal government to work together on issues of importance and what could be more important to the future of our city than dealing with issues like this – not just from a fairness angle but from an economic development perspective,” he said.

“The Hobart City Deal for example has a $30 million affordable housing component in it and we would like to see something similar.

“It’s not just a social issue, it’s an economic issue too.”

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