Report highlights: Responses to homelessness

What the report is about

The report assessed how effectively the Department of Communities and Justice is responding to homelessness through the NSW Government’s Homelessness Strategy.

It also assessed the effectiveness of the department’s efforts to address street homelessness in its COVID-19 response.

What we found

The strategy was designed to build evidence to inform future state-wide action rather than to end homelessness.

The department received significantly less funding than it sought for the strategy.

Actions delivered under the strategy have a narrow reach in terms of locations and number of people targeted for assistance.

The strategy will have limited short-term impact on homelessness across NSW, but it is building evidence on what works to prevent and reduce homelessness.

The department effectively implemented a crisis response to assist over 4,350 people sleeping rough into temporary accommodation during the pandemic.

While there was an effective crisis response to assist people sleeping rough during the pandemic, more will need to be done to ensure a sustainable response which prevents people returning to homelessness.

What we recommend

The department should:

  • provide advice to the NSW Government on sustainably addressing demand and unmet need for homelessness supports
  • commence development of a comprehensive strategy to address homelessness, linked to the government’s 10-year plan for social housing and 20-year housing strategy
  • enable input to key decisions on homelessness policy from partner agencies, the specialist homelessness services sector, the community housing sector, Aboriginal people, and people with lived experience of homelessness
  • partner with Aboriginal stakeholders and communities to design and implement a strategy for early identification and responses to the needs of Aboriginal people vulnerable to homelessness; and build the capacity and resourcing of the Aboriginal Community Controlled Sector to deliver homelessness services
  • evaluate the homelessness response to COVID-19, integrate the lessons learned into future practice, and develop protocols to inform actions in future emergencies or disasters
  • regularly collect client outcomes data and feedback and use this to drive improvements to responses to homelessness.

Fast facts

Homelessness Strategy
  • $169m total additional and existing funding allocated to the strategy.
  • 22% of the number of people in NSW experiencing homelessness in 2016 may be supported by strategy actions.
COVID-19 response 1 April 2020 to 31 January 2021
  • 400 people sleeping rough in temporary accommodation were assisted with two year rentals and wrap around support packages.
  • 72% of people sleeping rough provided with temporary accommodation were estimated to have left with unknown housing outcomes.

Further information

Please contact Ian Goodwin, Deputy Auditor-General on 9275 7347 or by email.