A government official insisted on putting a positive spin on homelessness figures, amidst growing demand to address the problem.
Federal Assistant Housing Minister Luke Howarth claimed that 111,600 homeless people were just a small fraction of the Australian population.
Howarth said that 99.5% of Australians were homed and live in safe places, with only 0.5% of the population homeless.
“I want to put a positive spin on (the homelessness issue) as well and not just say Australia’s in a housing crisis when it affects a very, very small percentage of the population,” Howarth told ABC Radio National.
However, during’ Howarth’s first meeting with lord mayors, the leaders of the nation’s capital cities demanded a strategy to reduce homelessness in the country.
“It’s a complex problem, and I think that unless we all work together it’s going to be a growing problem as well,” said Hobart Lord Mayor Anna Reynolds.
While state premiers and local governments called for urgent actions to combat the shortage of affordable housing, Howarth claimed that emergency accommodation was a greater issue.
“What I’m hearing from people that are on the ground is that emergency accommodation is a really important issue and we need more emergency accommodation,” said Howarth.
Shadow Regional Services Minister Jason Clare slammed Howarth, stating that the government needed to do less talking and more action.
“There are more people that are sleeping rough in Australia today than ever before. More people homeless than ever before,” Clare told Sky News.
The 2016 census found that 116,427 were counted as homeless, rising from 102,439 in 2011. At least 8,000 people are sleeping rough in the country on any given night, according to University of New South Wales City Futures Research Centre Professor Hal Pawson.
“Rather than using rhetoric like saying ‘let’s put a positive spin on homelessness’, let’s do something real about it,” said Clare.