Government, states strike deal for homeless

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A picture of a homeless Australian man. SOURCE: ABC

AAP Report

THE federal government has struck a deal with the states worth $320 million for services to the homeless.

The government made $159 million in federal funds available in early March, on the provision that the states and territories would match the contribution.

Homelessness Australia had expressed concern that the states were snubbing the offer, despite census data showing an increase in people sleeping rough every night.

But at the COAG Select Council on Housing and Homelessness on Thursday, all state and territory leaders confirmed their ongoing commitment to ensuring crucial services get delivered.

The initial one-year agreement gives service providers some certainty about next year’s funding, allowing them to continue helping some of Australia’s most vulnerable.

Minister for Housing and Homelessness Mark Butler said it was an important first step towards working with the states and territories for a more lasting response to homelessness beyond 2014.

Mission Australia said the funding was welcome, but extending the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness (NPAH) by just a year was a short-term fix.

“The hard work in terms of hammering out another long-term NPAH agreement is ahead of us,” Mission Australia’s CEO Toby Hall said in a statement.

He said it was time for the politics to be put aside so the industry wasn’t plagued by uncertainty yet again next year.

The government has also invited the states to bid for part of an extra $76 million for capital projects that move people from the streets into safe housing.

Mr Butler said the government remained committed to halving homelessness by 2020.

Homelessness Australia said the 2011 census data showed more than 105,000 Australians without a safe and secure place to call home every night.

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