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Rough sleeper count plummets in Adelaide CBD

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The number of homeless people sleeping rough in the city has dropped by just under 30 per cent in the past five months, according to new findings.

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Latest data from the Adelaide Zero Project shows 163 people were identified as sleeping rough in the city last month, down from a record-high 227 people in May.

However, the September figure is still above the 143 rough sleepers identified when the Adelaide Zero Project launched last year.

The project is an initiative of the Don Dunstan Foundation and is run by a group of over 40 partners, who travel the CBD and park lands recording the number of people sleeping rough on a by-name list.

Since the list was created in May last year, 238 homeless people who had previously been sleeping rough have been placed in Housing Trust properties or found private rental accommodation across metropolitan Adelaide.

Announcing the figures this morning in recognition of World Homelessness Day, Human Services Minister Michelle Lensink said the number of people being found permanent housing was “more placements than ever before”.

“We know that the number of people rough sleeping in the city fluctuates constantly, but the decrease over the past few months is promising and we hope it continues,” she said.

“The recent reduction in people sleeping rough has been supported by the SA Housing authority providing public housing for people experiencing homelessness, and by the ongoing work of our homelessness service providers.”

According to the Adelaide Zero Project’s dashboard, last month around 12 former rough sleepers were housed and 37 people were placed into temporary accommodation.

However, 44 new rough sleepers were added to the by-name list.

Graph: Adelaide Zero Project

The Adelaide Zero Project said it is currently undertaking further analysis into what is described as a “significant” shift in the number of people sleeping rough.

The project’s co-chair Louise Miller Frost said more resources were needed to address the fluctuating number of rough sleepers.

“The last 18 months of the Adelaide Zero Project has shown that this type of community collaboration can have a meaningful effect on the number of people sleeping rough in our city,” she said.

“This additional crisis accommodation option for those sleeping rough is a positive sign, but we still need more resources.

“The next step of the project is to continue to support people experiencing homelessness into stabilised housing, then look at the prevention of people falling into homelessness in the first place.”

But despite the figures showing numbers had declined, several leading services said demand remained high.

St Vincent de Paul South Australia homelessness services manager Tony Roach said the organisation’s women’s and men’s crisis accommodation centres in the city and northern suburbs had remained at near capacity – around 92 per cent – over the past five months.

The Salvation Army’s Mark Foyle said he had also not heard of any recent change to service demand.

“With the services that we provide for meals on Saturdays and Wednesdays we are seeing no reduction, or a reduction in the number of families coming to us for support,” he said.

“As for being able to provide short-term accommodation, we are not the biggest provider but our Whitmore Square sobering up unit is at capacity with about 30 beds.”

Lensink said efforts to reduce rough sleeping in the city would be boosted by the redevelopment of the Waymouth Street boarding house, which will reopen this month.

The boarding house will be able to accommodate 25 people, including couples and people with pets.

The State Government is also finalising its new 10-year Housing and Homelessness Strategy, which will be released by the end of this year.

“Given we face a range of significant and complex housing challenges it’s the right time to hit the reset button on a broken system,” Lensink said.

“We know housing provision is bigger than any one agency, provider or industry.”

Meanwhile, Lord Mayor Sandy Verschoor this morning met with other capital city mayors to push for the State and Federal Governments to take “urgent” action on addressing homelessness.

“Some of the key points that we discussed were targets that needed to be created around new social and community housing, what data should underpin the targets, how much extra funding would be required once we define the targets and how do we make existing funding mechanisms more equitable, efficient and transparent,” she said.

The Adelaide City Council, which provides funding to the Zero Project, voted in June to declare a “crisis of homelessness” in the city.

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