Thursday, 7 July 2011

Homelessness: Making a Difference Together

Here’s my speech in Parliament this week about tackling the challenge of homelessness across the nation and on the Southside -

This government prides itself on delivering on its commitments, including those in parts of the country where the need for road infrastructure is great. This federal government now injects more effort there than any previous federal government and offsets what are often poor investment records on the part of certain state governments.

I congratulate the particular efforts of the then member for Swan, Kim Wilkie, who was elected to parliament with me in 1998. I am sure that this will be appropriately reported in the member's local newspaper now that he has raised it here.

Homelessness is one of the biggest challenges that we face in our community. I recently had the opportunity to experience sleeping rough as part of the St Vinnie's CEO Sleep Out. In fact, there were thousands of folk there bedding down on cardboard during that CEO Sleep Out across the county. Frankly, sleeping out and sleeping rough for one night pales into insignificance against what those who really sleep rough most nights, if not all nights of the week, around Australia go through.

Current estimates suggest that up to 105,000 people are homeless on any given night in Australia. Alarmingly, my own home state of Queensland has the highest number of people sleeping rough every night of the year, including some 300 people sleeping rough on the streets of Brisbane on any given night.

In an effort to offer some practical help, I recently launched a new initiative in my electorate. It is called 'My Community BBQ.' I have teamed up with two terrific local organisations, Micah Projects and West End Community House, to host monthly barbecues to directly support disadvantaged individuals and their families. Our first barbecue in May attracted 150 disadvantaged people from the local area.

Local organisations like MICAH and West End Community House are the backbone of homelessness support services in my community. Micah Projects are assisting the community barbecue by hosting this event at their Brisbane Homelessness Service Centre in South Brisbane. The centre provides essential services to individuals and families experiencing homelessness.

Micah Projects are also leading the Common Ground initiative. Upon completion, the 146-unit development will be a sustainable housing solution for chronically homeless people and people on low incomes in Brisbane. It will complement existing housing services within the community that address homelessness—and we are seeing these Common Ground facilities rolled out across the country.

These currently include, in terms of local housing support services: community development; tenancy advice and advocacy; community meeting spaces; and local outreach services. They also include the Homeless Persons' Legal Clinic, a free legal advice service and homeless person's health checks.

We are proud of what we are doing on the challenge of homelessness around Australia. I am proud of what we are doing to tackle the challenge of homelessness within my community of South Brisbane.


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