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Record number of city rough sleepers housed during pandemic

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Over 70 people experiencing homelessness were found permanent housing in Adelaide in July – the highest ever housing rate in a month – raising hope that the city will reach its target to end rough sleeping by the end of the year.

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New data from the Adelaide Zero Project shows a “milestone” 72 people experiencing homeless were housed in July – a significant increase compared to the median housing rate of 12 people before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The data shows Adelaide’s monthly housing rate has steadily increased since May, despite 33 new people entering homelessness on average each month.

The Adelaide Zero Project, which is run by a consortium of more than 40 non-government and government organisations, aims to ensure the number of people sleeping rough in the inner city is no greater than the housing available that month.

The group wants to reach that target by the end of this year – a goal its former head warned might not be achievable.

But co-chair Louise Miller-Frost said the new data showed a “big step” towards the Adelaide Zero Project target and reflected the success of the State Government-led push to house people during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Human Services Minister Michelle Lensink announced in March that the State Government, in collaboration with the Adelaide Zero Project, would “immediately” accommodate people experiencing homelessness in hotels and motels to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

She said those people would be offered assistance finding permanent housing to get them off the streets for good.

All up, the State Government spent $8.2 million responding to homelessness during the coronavirus pandemic.

“The Adelaide Zero Project has shown during COVID-19 that it is possible to coordinate housing and support for people sleeping rough faster than ever before, especially when we all work together,” Miller-Frost said.

“We are seeing an average of 33 people per month entering rough sleeping, so if we can keep up the momentum of housing over 70 people per month we will make real strides towards our target.

“This includes people who are sleeping rough in the city, or who have since moved into temporary shelter – we can then know these people’s names and needs and eventually connect them to support and accommodation.”

The Adelaide Zero Project’s latest count shows there are currently 218 people experiencing homeless in the inner city, including 117 people sleeping rough.

Miller-Frost said she was “concerned” that there might be an increase in homelessness in the coming months, due to the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 and the downturn in the economy.

It follows a warning from SA Housing Authority chief executive Michael in June that people experiencing homelessness were “cycling in and out, and failing through the system”.

“We really do need to stop and step back and ask, how do our homelessness system and services actually exit people from homelessness and not just focus on a momentary element of support for individuals?,” he said.

According to Adelaide Zero Project data, over 75 per cent of people who are experiencing homelessness also experience health, safety, relationship or financial challenges.

Lensink said the Government was currently reforming the homelessness sector to ensure services worked together.

“To successfully help so many people off the street and into a longer-term home is an outstanding achievement,” she said.

“This really shows what can be achieved when the sector works together to achieve a common goal and a lot of hard work has made this outcome possible.”

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