Health and wellbeing

Reducing rough sleeping in the city

Homelessness is a complex issue with no simple solution. We explain the City of Sydney’s role in responding to rough sleeping and homelessness.

Our work in responding to homelessness

Responding to homelessness is primarily a state government responsibility. But we think government at all levels has a role to play.

The City of Sydney runs a specialist unit to reduce homelessness and its impacts in Sydney. We’re the first local government authority in Australia to have a unit of this kind.

The unit works 7 days a week, linking people sleeping rough with the right services and support.

We’ve invested $6.6 million over 3 years to help reduce homelessness in the city.

This includes a $3.5 million contribution to the NSW Government’s Department of Communities and Justice over 3 years to run specialist homelessness services.

In February, we signed an agreement with the NSW Government, the Institute of Global Homelessness, St Vincent de Paul, St Vincent’s Health, Mission Australia, Salvation Army, Wesley Mission, Neami National and Yfoundations.

This aims to:

  • reduce rough sleeping in the City of Sydney area by 25% by 2020
  • reduce rough sleeping in the City of Sydney area and NSW by 50% by 2025
  • work towards zero rough sleeping in the City of Sydney area and NSW.

We’ve contributed $100,000 to the St Vincent de Paul Society to establish a Sydney office to coordinate the project.

The independent office will bring together various organisations and services working to reduce homelessness. It will allow for greater information sharing and a more coordinated response to reduce the number of people sleeping rough. It will also work to prevent people entering into homelessness.

Homelessness has many causes and it does not discriminate

There are many causes of rough sleeping. These can include domestic and family violence, mental health issues, drug and alcohol addiction, and unemployment and financial hardship.

The short supply of social and affordable housing in inner city areas is also a factor.

In Sydney, we’ve helped build 835 new affordable housing dwellings since 2004 by collecting levies from developers and selling our land to affordable housing providers at discount rates.

And we’ve repeatedly called for a long-term national strategy that provides more social and affordable housing and addresses the underlying causes of homelessness.

We do not tell people sleeping rough to move on

The City of Sydney does not move people on. We aim to ensure the public spaces in our city can be accessed and enjoyed by everyone, including people who are homeless.

NSW Government protocols uphold the right of people who are experiencing homelessness to access public spaces without the risk of discrimination.

We support these protocols and encourage responsible behaviour by all people in our public spaces. This means working to ensure people experiencing disadvantage are not discriminated against and are treated with compassion and respect.

Sleeping rough is not an offence in NSW.

Contact NSW Police if you need to make a complaint about violence or anti-social behaviour.

We do twice-yearly counts of the number of people sleeping rough

Street counts collect accurate and up-to-date information about the number of people sleeping rough in our local area. People occupying beds in temporary shelters and homelessness hostels are also counted.

People living in boarding houses, staying with friends or living in other forms of non-secure housing are not counted.

No information on the specific location of rough sleepers is published.

Two street counts take place in February and August every year, between 1am and 3am. Each count relies on the goodwill and participation of more than 150 volunteers.

Ways you can support people experiencing homelessness

You can volunteer for the street count in February or August.

Many organisations in the local area work to help people experiencing homelessness, and many rely on the support of volunteers. Check the City of Sydney’s volunteer and goods donation directory.

Published 26 August 2019, updated 27 August 2019

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