Homelessness is increasingly becoming an issue in our current society in general - and more specifically in Dubbo. The 2021 Census data reveals that 225 people in Dubbo and Wellington were homeless on Census night. This was an increase over 2016 with areas around Dubbo such as Bathurst; Orange; Coonabarabran; Narromine and Gilgandra also seeing increases. Anecdotal information from service providers is that the problem has increased since 2021.
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Homelessness has a range of varieties. There are only very few who actually sleep in improvised dwellings along the river or under a bridge or in their cars. There are more people sleeping on the couch or in overcrowded accommodation. Some providers also have temporary supported accommodation to help people experiencing domestic violence or financial issues.
Despite PRD Real Estate's Research Division recently listing Dubbo in their Top 10 of Australia's most affordable and liveable regions, the current median weekly earnings in Dubbo make it difficult to qualify to rent accommodation with just a single income. A report that went to our most recent council meeting showed that the Dubbo area will see an influx of over 6,000 workers who will require short-term accommodation while major projects are completed in our area. That will place more pressure on the current rental market.
So what can council do about any of these problems?
If I walk in to a convenience store and ask for a chocolate and a new car, it would be logical for the person behind the counter to sell me the chocolate and tell me to go to a car dealer for the new car. In much the same way, it would be logical for any council to point to the Local Government Act 1993 and note the extensive range of areas that council is responsible for and focus on areas that are under the direct responsibility of council. Social housing is not one of those areas - the state government needs to deliver those services.
I believe we can do better than that though. To address the incredibly complex issues, a multifaceted approach is required. One of the first areas is to increase levels of communication among various stakeholders. Already council has been facilitating meetings amongst government departments and not-for-profit organisations to help deliver solutions.
Many of these organisations are already working very well in this sector but by collaborating they may see even better solutions. Council is also engaging with the development sector and looking at a range of different types of zoning to see if solutions can be encouraged in this area. Our reintroduced development forums are a perfect way to engage the development community.
Whilst council simply doesn't have the budget or the manpower to solve the problem of homelessness alone, by working with other levels of government, we can help to improve our community.
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