The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) welcomes changes announced by the NSW Government that make it easier to access ‘temporary accommodation,’ a crisis accommodation option for people with nowhere else to go.
NSW Minister for Homelessness, Rose Jackson, announced an extension to the ‘initial period’ that people can stay in temporary accommodation in The Guardian.
Under the previous rules, people were only provided with accommodation for two to three days before having to apply for an extension. Now, people entering temporary accommodation can have seven days of accommodation (or nine days if entering the accommodation on a weekend) before having to reapply.
PIAC has long advocated for this change alongside other homelessness organisations. The new rule provides much needed stability and reduces the stress of continually reapplying.
The Minister also announced an increase to the ‘asset cap’, a means test on eligibility for temporary accommodation, from $1,000 to $5,000. The cap will be removed entirely for people escaping domestic or family violence. This means people will not have to exhaust their own savings before receiving support, reducing the risk of ongoing hardship and homelessness. It also means people fleeing family violence will not face unnecessary eligibility concerns as they seek safety.
The announcement follows a 12-month pause on the requirement that people in temporary accommodation fill out a rental diary to show they have attempted to secure a private rental home.
‘These changes mean people can have some breathing space to get things in order and make a plan what to do next, rather than having the time consuming and stressful experience of reapplying every two days,’ explains Christina Kasavetis, Community Caseworker for PIAC’s Women’s Homelessness Prevention Service.
‘Temporary accommodation is a last resort. Often, it’s unsafe for people to go back to their homes due to violence, or they have outstayed their welcome in couchsurfing arrangements.’
Each application for an extension requires a visit to a Department of Communities and Justice Housing office, which can take a significant amount of time.
‘The clients feel overwhelmed and depleted… It is a time-consuming process that can take hours out of a day that could be used to more productively to address other issues they have in their lives. Often people are so overwhelmed that they will give up and walk out,’ Kasavetis states.
‘Clients’ health and wellbeing can deteriorate dramatically. Many are trying to cope with mental health issues, trauma, and/or disability whilst they are constantly moving around. They have no time to eat well, can’t sleep and are afraid of what will happen next. Will they be approved again for temporary accommodation? Where will they go?’
‘Just think about how stressful it is to move your belongings, only to get there and find yourself doing it all over again a day and a half later – while all the while, you still need to look for more permanent housing.’
Despite these changes, temporary accommodation remains a short-term reprieve for people in crisis, and not a permanent fix to the lack of affordable housing in NSW. PIAC continues to advocate for improvements to temporary accommodation and other crisis accommodation to improve the experience of homeless persons.
‘All people want is to feel safe, be comfortable and call a place home like everyone else,’ Kasavetis concludes.