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Cold night out in support of homeless

This year, I joined hundreds of leaders in business and government to pitch my cardboard tent on the docks of White Bay. Having done the CEO Sleepout for six years – designed to raise funds for the services of the St Vincent de Paul Society and planned for the longest (and therefore often coldest) night of the year – I am always convinced I will remember how cold it feels.


Linda Scott with Alex Claassens, NSW Secretary and National Executive Member of the Rail, Tram and Bus Union.  Photo: Supplied

Linda Scott with Alex Claassens, NSW Secretary and National Executive Member of the Rail, Tram and Bus Union. Photo: Supplied

Each and every year, however, it seems so much colder than the year before.

In Australia, more than 116,000 people experience homelessness each night. Thirty-two per cent – 37,320 – are children. Worse, the rate of homelessness is increasing – across Australia rates of homelessness grew by 13.7 per cent between 2011 and 2016, from 102,439 to 116,427 people.

The rates of growth in homelessness are at their worst in our own little patch of the world. In the City of Sydney, our latest winter count of those sleeping rough saw 386 people sleeping rough, with another 600 in crisis accommodation. Bearing in mind only 6 per cent of people experiencing homelessness are sleeping rough on any given night, the figures reflect a sorry state for our City.

Looking across years, in the City of Sydney the number of people who were homeless on census night increased by almost 70 per cent between 2011 and 2016 (whereas homelessness in the whole of Sydney increased by 30 per cent, from 28,191 to 37,715).

Part of this huge growth is undoubtedly related to the price of housing – rental or otherwise – in our City. With more than 84 per cent of very low to moderate income inner-city households experiencing housing stress, we continue to see – at best – lower income earners pushed into the city’s fringes, away from infrastructure and job opportunities (or worse, pushed into sleeping rough).

This is not what our City should look like.

No matter how cold I feel, or how long it took to get feeling back into my feet (hint – a long time), I think of the 37,320 children sleeping rough and register again for next year. Ultimately, however, fundraising for charities can only go so far, and we need change in governments who act to create more affordable housing.



Linda Scott is President of Local Government NSW and a Labor councillor on the City of Sydney Council.

This article first published on the Social Justice page of the SSH. Printing sponsored by Uniting:

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