New data released today from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) shows there were hundreds of cases of unmet need for homelessness services in the Canberra community last financial year. It should sound alarm bells to the government that more needs to be done to address homelessness, Shadow Minister for Housing Nicole Lawder said today.

“I find it alarming to see that there were 599 instances of unmet need and more women than men in unmet need. It demonstrates a failure of the government’s response to the issue,” Ms Lawder said.

“While the number of Canberrans receiving support from homelessness services dropped, domestic and family violence was the most common main reason given for seeking assistance at 14.8% in the ACT (239 men, 489 women) (also largest group last year at 15%). Nationally this is also the most common main reason at 24%.

“The AIHW report showed that couch surfing is the most common type of housing situation on first presentation to homelessness services, at 20.9% of all clients in the ACT. This is much higher than the national average of 11.4%.

“Mental health is also much higher than the national average as a reason for seeking assistance at 21.9% (last year 19.6%, nationally 12.2%).

“Canberrans seeking assistance are generally in younger age groups than the national average. 13.5% of ACT clients were aged less than 9 years of age, while the most clients were in the 18-24 years (21.1%) and 25-34 years age groups (20.8%), similar figures to last year.

“I’m also particularly concerned about the lack of exits from homelessness services. This is down to the lack of housing affordability in Canberra. Almost 55 percent of ACT clients identified housing affordability or financial difficulties as a reason for seeking assistance, much higher than the 46.2% figure nationally. The ACT government knows there a problem but it actually needs to address the housing affordability crisis,” Ms Lawder concluded.