St Vincent de Paul Society puts a cost on homelessness in Tasmania – $41,403,684 every year.

National Homelessness Awareness Week is, once again, focusing a sharp, unwelcome light on homelessness. This is an issue that refuses to go away; one that is estimated to be costing Tasmania close to $800,000 every week.

The St Vincent de Paul Society estimated that, based on a 2017 Issues Paper – The Case for Investing in Last-Resort Housing – authored by SGS Economics and Planning in cooperation with the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute and The University of Melbourne, the cost of ignoring homelessness in Tasmania is likely to be over $800,000 per week.

The State President for the St Vincent de Paul Society, Mr Mark Gaetani, said Tasmania could learn valuable lessons from the Victorian experience.

“Homelessness is homelessness no matter where you live in Australia. One can quote the national figure of 116,000, the Victorian figure of 7,500, or Tasmania’s figure of 1,116. All of them are too high both in terms of human suffering and economic costs,” Mr Gaetani said.

“One cannot ignore the significant similarities between Tasmania and Victoria. Tasmania’s social attitudes, climate, and economics are very similar and interlinked. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that the $41.4m cost of homelessness to the Tasmanian Government each year is proportionate to the $178m cost to the Victorian Government.

“Along with many other charities, the St Vincent de Paul Society spends hundreds of thousands of dollars every year attending to the needs of homeless Tasmanians; and while our efforts might bring hope and temporary relief, Tasmania is not even close to fixing the problem of homelessness.

“It is a source of constant frustration to me and other charity leaders that no matter how much we do, the queues of people in need of our assistance grow longer every day. Tent cities are popping up in our metropolitan areas. Homeless people are literally dying on our streets, yet the issue of homelessness prevails. In June 2019, Hobart City Council hosted a forum to address homelessness. Three years later, nothing has changed. The cloak of good intentions is no shield against winter’s chilly nights for the homeless.

“If the social or moral argument isn’t working to prompt governments and councils to take meaningful action, perhaps the economic argument will convince them to act. $41m dollars is a lot of money to be spending every year for little or no return.

“If the Tasmanian Government allocated the estimated $41m currently being absorbed by homelessness to programmes that actually fixed homelessness, we could potentially eliminate the issue in 12 months,” Mr Gaetani said.

Speaking to Pro Bono News, the Director of SGS and the report’s lead author, Ms Ellen Witte, said they found governments and society “benefit more than they spend” by providing last-resort housing to homeless individuals.

MEDIA NOTES: The St Vincent de Paul Society was founded in Paris, France in 1833 by a 20-year old Italian student, Frederic Ozanam. Today, the Society operates in 153 countries and has over 800,000 members. Australia has over 60,000 members, dedicated to assisting people in need and combating social injustice. The Society started in Tasmania in 1899 when founders established a Conference in Launceston. From humble beginnings, the Society has grown to 25 Conferences within three Regional Councils across Tasmania. Each Conference undertake a variety of good works, the most recognised being the traditional Vincentian home visits and the annual CEO Sleep-out to draw attention to homelessness.

Media contact, Mark Wells: +61 414 015 966 (24-hours)
© St Vincent de Paul Society and MWPA.

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