Specialist lawyers and policy experts met at the Public Interest Advocacy Centre in Sydney last week to discuss how they can meet the growing legal need among Australia’s homeless population.
The forum brought together legal clinics for homeless people, like HPLS, from around Australia. The forum looked at the best ways to deliver legal services to homeless people, how to involve homeless people in policy development and key policy issues affecting homeless people.
The increasing unmet legal need among the homeless population was a major focus of the forum.
‘Improving access to justice for homeless people is one of the most pressing justice policy issues confronting governments,’ said PIAC CEO, Edward Santow.
‘The face of homelessness is changing. There are more women, more families, and more people with mental illness unable to secure safe, stable accommodation. This means that legal service providers are facing increasing demand to respond to complex legal needs.’
‘The homeless legal services at this forum work in partnership with private law firms to help alleviate some of the legal stress that these people face. However, these services can only scratch the surface of the legal need out there for homeless people.’
The forum also heard about the work of the HPLS Consumer Advisory Committee, StreetCare, made up of people with recent experience of homelessness.
‘The forum was an excellent opportunity for other homeless legal services to see the value of involving homeless people in our policy work,’ said HPLS Senior Policy Officer, Lou Schetzer.
‘Their experiences powerfully illustrate the reality of homelessness in our community.’