Councillor questions accuracy of BCC homelessness statistics

TAYLOR TOOVEY

The Brisbane City Council (BCC) ‘Housing and homelessness’ page of their website has been a source of speculation over whether the statistics accurately portray the number of homeless and insecurely housed in central Brisbane.

The page says that,”Within five kilometres of Brisbane’s Central Business District, approximately  50 people are homeless (and) over 300 live in unsafe of insecure accommodation.”

The statistics on the council’s website were brought into question by Gabba Ward Councillor, Jonathan Sri, on his public Facebook page.

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A screenshot from the Brisbane City Council page on Housing and Homelessness. Source: BCC

Councillor Sri referred to a recent Micah report that says 7395 adults were homeless or vulnerably housed in Brisbane, according to 2011 census data.

Although these statistics apply to the whole of Brisbane,  Sri believes there are more than 350 homeless or vulnerably housed people in Brisbane’s Central Business District, despite what the Brisbane City Council statistics imply.

In his post, Sri also questions why the Brisbane City Council would limit homelessness statistics to a 5km radius when homelessness and housing insecurity occurs all over Brisbane.

Sri says that the statistics on the council website may be inaccurate due to council funding cuts to housing and homelessness support services, which could prevent effective counting of homeless people in Brisbane.

Additionally, the Gabba Ward Councillor states that many insecurely housed people do not show up in homelessness statistics but may very well be doing it as tough as those included.

“As well as the dozens of rough sleepers and hundreds of car-sleepers, there are thousands of people who don’t have stable, secure housing and are depending on the generosity of friends, or living in short-term shelters and crisis accommodation,” Sri said.

“Many more people are only a few late rent payments away from becoming homeless. These people don’t necessarily show up in homelessness statistics, but their housing situation is incredibly precarious,”

Homelessness Australia says that accommodation issues are the largest cause of homelessness in Queensland followed by financial difficulties and then domestic violence and relationship issues.

Sri explains that the Brisbane City Council used to play a more significant role in providing affordable housing to Brisbane residents, but now city Councillors allocate their budgets towards different priorities.

“These days the other Councillors will tell you that providing housing is a state government issue and that BCC doesn’t have enough money to help. That’s clearly nonsense when you look at how many hundreds of millions of dollars the council is spending on road-widening projects,” Councillor Sri said.

“They have the money – they just don’t want to spend it on providing housing for poor people,”

On the same council page listing the homelessness statistics that have been brought into question by Councillor Sri, the council provides a list of services to support Brisbane’s homeless. However, Sri believes that more could be done by the Council than to just refer people to services.

“Brisbane City Council’s main response to homelessness is Homeless Connect, which is a one-off event where they give away a bunch of free stuff like soap and socks. It’s a classic example of a band-aid response that does nothing to address the underlying issues,”

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A homeless man in Brisbane City. Source: Taylor Toovey.

A few of Sri’s suggestions for combatting homelessness include implementing restrictions on how often landlords can increase rent, making developers include a proportion of affordable community housing within their new apartment developments and funding community housing organisations to acquire additional dwellings for people unable to afford rent in the private market.

“Crucially, council needs to rethink its approach to inner-city densification to ensure that affordable share houses and boarding houses aren’t knocked down and replaced with significantly more expensive forms of housing,” he said.

The Source News approached the Brisbane City Council for information on their sourcing of these statistics but did not receive a comment.

Robert, an Aboriginal elder who has been homeless for 12 years believes the Brisbane City Council homelessness statistics are very conservative as he estimates there are around 1,200  homeless people living in the central Brisbane area.

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Robert has been homeless for twelve years. Source: Taylor Toovey.

“Homelessness is not inevitable and unpreventable,” Councillor Sri said.

“Many cities in the developed world have successfully reduced homelessness significantly, and some cities have solved the problem completely. There’s no reason Brisbane can’t do the same,” he said.

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