Homeward Bound: Social Security and Homelessness

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This project is a collaboration between The National Social Security Rights Network (NSSRN) and Canberra Community Law (CCL) to examine the impacts of social security and public housing systems, and their intersection with homelessness.

Homeward Bound: Social Security and Homelessness (research report) makes recommendations for how the social security and public housing systems could be improved to reduce or prevent homelessness. This research report’s findings rely on data collected by CCL, which demonstrates the impact of social security and public housing on residents in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). These findings have broader application to other Australian jurisdictions, particularly given that social security is a responsibility of the Commonwealth Government.

Social security recipients experience the highest rates of poverty in Australia with over half of Newstart Allowance recipients living below the poverty line and most priced out of the private rental market. For many social security recipients, public housing is the only viable housing option for them. However, this research found that high demand and long waiting lists leave many people with nowhere to turn.

The client experiences examined in this research include people sleeping rough, people unable to pay their rent, people sleeping on couches, in their cars and in the living rooms of friends and family. Clients frequently sought assistance from CCL after relationship breakdowns, family tensions or overcrowding, which made their informal living arrangements untenable. Those in private rental accommodation said they faced eviction but had not yet been allocated a public housing property. Even people in public housing were extremely vulnerable to any changes in their personal circumstances, including unexpectedly high bills or other expenses, or costs associated with repairs or damage, as their Centrelink payments left no room for emergency expenditure.

This research report has been funded by the Administrative Institute of Administrative Law (Australian Capital Territory Chapter). The views expressed here are of CCL and NSSRN and are not necessarily those of the Australian Institute of Administrative Law.

Read the full report here.