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Homelessness In NSW Jumps More Then 30%

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The number of people who are homeless in NSW has soared by more than one-third, with newly released census data showing people living in “severely” overcrowded dwellings are the greatest contributor to this increase.

NSW recorded the most severe jump in homelessness of any state or territory between the 2016 and 2011 censuses. In 2011 the number of homeless people in NSW was 28,191 but reached 37,715 last census night, the statistics bureau found.

In the City of Sydney (ABS data is divided up by local government area), the number of people who were homeless on census night increased by almost 70 per cent.

Accounting for all categories of homelessness, from those "sleeping rough" to people who are couch surfing, the state's 37 per cent increase was more than double the national average of 14 per cent.

But the largest increase was recorded in the categories of people living in overcrowded dwellings, which rose by just under 75 per cent, and young people aged between 19 and 24, whose numbers rose more than 90 per cent.

Housing stress pushed Tykara Lang into homelessness at a time when most teenagers' lives are defined by the stress of preparing for HSC exams.

Ms Lang, 19, was seeking new accommodation after living with her grandmother whose lease expired when she moved into an aged-care facility, and as the teenager's HSC trials were coming up.

She was able to find temporary accommodation but in less than ideal circumstances.

"It was a rough arrangement. I was doing my half-yearlies for the HSC and living in a [place mainly for] people for drug and alcohol problems, which I don't [have].

"But a bed had just opened up."

Ms Lang found help from Mission Australia after looking them up online. The organisation provided her with a case worker and advocate who found her new temporary accommodation in the inner-city she shares with one flatmate.

Despite the challenges she faced in year 12 Ms Lang has recently started studying nursing at TAFE and has secured transitional accommodation she shares with one housemate while she studies.

But advocates decried the latest statistics as an international embarrassment and said outcomes like Ms Lang's were increasingly rare as many of the state's homelessness services now verged on breaking point.

The chief executive of St Vincent de Paul Society NSW, Jack de Groot, said: “It’s time for the state government tells us its plan to deal with the issue.”

The CEO of Mission Australia, James Toomey, said national figures showing 116,000 people homeless in 2016 reflected the need for co-ordinated federal action.

The CEO of Homelessness NSW, Katherine McKernan, said an increase in homelessness during a five-year period when the state and the state government were enjoying sustained economic growth was not acceptable.

The state government last year committed to tender a second tranche of social housing for its 3400-home social housing fund, which is backed by more than $1 billion in investment.

But Ms McKernan said with only 1 per cent of housing in the greater city accessible to those on low incomes, large-scale investment in more social housing was needed quickly. The waiting list for public housing in NSW now runs to 60,000 people.

Ms Lang, who attributed support from nurses during difficult hospital stays in her youth inspired her choice of study, said support from Mission Australia had provided a case worker, psychologist and dietitian that had helped her not just to find a new path in life but to maintain her mental health after being diagnosed with depression and an eating disorder in her youth.

But so, too, has the routine of home.

"Everyone thrives on stability," she said. "Knowing where I'm going to be tomorrow helps so much."

Story by: The Sydney Morning Hearld - https://www.smh.com.au/politics/nsw/homelessness-in-nsw-jumps-by-more-than-30-per-cent-20180314-p4z4ds.html

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