The House Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs has released an interim report on its inquiry into homelessness in Australia, focusing on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on housing and homelessness issues. Chair of the Committee, Mr Andrew Wallace MP, said that ‘The COVID-19 pandemic arrived in Australia shortly after this inquiry commenced in February 2020. As the virus spread, the Committee quickly realised that it would have major implications for people at risk of or experiencing homelessness, and the governments and organisations who work with them.’
In May 2020, the Committee called for evidence on the impact of COVID-19 on homelessness, encouraging community groups and others to share their experiences in responding to the pandemic.
By the beginning of October the Committee had received close to 200 submissions—most of which discuss the COVID-19 situation—and spoken to 40 governmental and non-government organisations at five public hearings.
Mr Wallace said: ‘This interim report summarises what the Committee has heard to date from a wide range of people and organisations about COVID-19 and homelessness in Australia.
‘It explores the central themes of the evidence we have received including what the definition of homelessness should be, who is most at risk and the effectiveness of Government responses to homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic.
‘The Committee heard from many organisations and peak bodies who gave detailed accounts of how service providers across Australia have adapted to the crisis and have continued to deliver support to the many people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness throughout Australia at this difficult time.
‘We believe that it is important to report now, so this evidence can be considered by policymakers in a timely way, even as the impacts of the pandemic continue to unfold.’
‘The Committee encourages the Australian Government to take this report into account as it continues to formulate its immediate and long-term responses to the pandemic’, added Mr Wallace.
The Committee’s inquiry into homelessness in Australia continues. The Committee will issue a final report, addressing the inquiry’s full terms of reference and including recommendations, at the conclusion of the inquiry.