High living costs and rising rents have forced many Tasmanians to take to the streets or find themselves in precarious living situations.
Most important points:
- Glenorchy City Council and Break O’Day City Council look at ways to repurpose unused buildings for emergency shelter
- Glenorchy’s Kelly Sims says a solution to Tasmania’s housing crisis will require collaboration between local and state governments
- Hobart City Mission says there are a lot of logistics and costs involved in running an emergency shelter
Although the state government has promised 10,000 new social housing units by 2032, there are concerns for people who now need a roof over their heads.
Two municipalities are taking matters into their own hands and looking at how unused or municipal buildings can be used for temporary emergency shelter.
In recent times, the old hospital in St. Helens in the northeast of the state has been used as a COVID-19 clinic.
Break O’Day Mayor Mick Tucker wants to explore how it can be reused to help the growing homeless population.
“It shouldn’t be left empty at the end of the month” [its] COVID clinic status,” Cr Tucker told ABC Radio Hobart.
“We’re willing to raise our hands and look at everything we can, and then work with the state government to see if it’s possible.”
The property is already equipped with kitchen and bathroom facilities and only some minor adjustments are needed to make it suitable for emergency shelter.
“We’ve come up with an idea that’s worth developing. We believe that whatever is out there is available and can help our community, we need to look at it.”
Council ‘duty of care’
In the south of the state, Glenorchy Councilor Kelly Sims also advocates repurposing community-owned facilities and said local government played a role in addressing the housing crisis in the state.
“It’s important for us to understand and share [with State Government] the responsibility to tackle homelessness,” she said.
CR Sims will table a motion at tonight’s meeting calling for an investigation into what council facilities can be used as shelters during the winter.
The motion will also ask the council to write to the state and federal governments and ask for advice on how to tackle homelessness.
“Local government is fundamentally responsible for leading, driving change and influencing the community through a ‘thorough’ approach,” the motion said.
“Councils have a duty of care and the necessary experience to educate their communities and work together on overarching and important issues such as homelessness.”
Well-being warns of costs, complex needs
Hobart City Mission chief executive Harvey Lennon said he was pleased that local councils were looking for ways to provide crisis relief, but there’s more to it than “just opening the doors of a building.”
“It’s not cheap to provide 24-hour care,” says Mr. Lennon.
“You have to be able to heat the food [and] toilets and showers provided.
“People who are homeless generally have a diverse and complex range of needs and the people we have [at Hobart City Mission] trained to work with those people, to listen to them.”
Ms Sims said that while the main challenge for the local government was finding funding and resources, this did not mean that the municipality could not take any form of action.
“It is not the municipality’s responsibility to solve the housing crisis,” she said.
“But what the municipality can do is work smarter around what we already say we do.
“We need to look a little bit wider and take into account considerations and recommendations around homelessness and the role of local government in it.”