A plan to end homelessness

VCOSS submission to development of a National Housing and Homelessness Plan

Homelessness is complex and multi-dimensional – and we need to rise to meet this challenge head-on.

As Commonwealth, State and Territory governments increasingly turn their attention to new ways of driving and measuring social and economic progress, the new NHHP must engage with that complexity. It must be ambitious, centred around an explicit goal to end homelessness.   

Australia’s first National Wellbeing Framework contains 50 indicators to measure how we are faring in relation to the Commonwealth Government’s pursuit of “a more healthy, secure, sustainable, cohesive and prosperous Australia”.  

The research is unequivocal. Housing is the foundation for a good life. Done right, the new NHHP has the potential to shift the dial across all indicators in the Commonwealth’s National Wellbeing Framework. 

The Road Home in 2008 was Australia’s last national homelessness strategy. It promoted a new public discourse about who experiences homelessness and why, and was a lightning rod for new conversations about how to prevent and end homelessness. Importantly, it provided some opportunities to trial the effectiveness of then-new best practice models with funding through the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness (NPAH) (and the subsequent National Housing and Homelessness Agreement (NHHA)).  

Some jurisdictions have continued to build on The Road Home. For example, in Victoria, the State Government and other system actors – including specialist homelessness services and other parts of the community sector – have enacted bold policy and program reforms, and driven significant new investment, through the 2016 Royal Commission into Family Violence, the 2018 Homes for Victorians initiative, the Homeless and Rough Sleeper Action Plan and the four-year Big Housing Build, which commenced in 2020.  

However, across Australia, the housing challenges we faced in 2008 have only become more acute. Homelessness, already a complex issue 25 years ago, has become even more so. That’s because the drivers of homelessness have persisted. Our social safety net has been weakened. The rate of income support continues to trap people in poverty. Gender inequality continues to drive high rates of family violence, pushing women and children into homelessness. Social housing as a proportion of all housing stock in the market is at historic lows, leaving people on low incomes to languish on waiting lists whilst sheltering in insecure, over-crowded or unsafe accommodation settings. 

Adding to these challenges are the global cost of living and energy crises, climate change and a higher incidence of disasters and emergencies, and the long-tail health and economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

In this context, a new 10-Year National Housing and Homelessness Plan is welcome and necessary. With the right scope and resources, the NHHP can provide much needed coordination and resourcing of the necessary policy, program and funding responses required to end homelessness, across government portfolios and jurisdictions, the market and the community.  

VCOSS is the peak body for Victoria’s social and community sector, and the state’s premier social advocacy body. WWe work towards a Victoria free from poverty and disadvantage, where every person and community experiences genuine wellbeing. Read more.

We welcome the opportunity to proide this input.

VCOSS acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country, and we pay respect to Elders and Ancestors. Our business is conducted on sovereign, unceded Aboriginal land. The VCOSS offices are located on Wurundjeri Woiwurrung land in central Naarm.