Brisbane Zero aims to dispel the idea that homelessness is entrenched and unsolvable. They argue that zero homelessness means “knowing people are going to be homeless – but doing what we can to ensure it is rare, brief and non-recurring.”

Brisbane Zero is part of the Australian Alliance to End Homelessness. Micah Projects leads the local data collaboration. The team at Micah have been registering Brisbane’s homeless population since June 2010.

The current Brisbane Zero collaboration includes over sixteen peer organisations that know that reducing homelessness relies on knowing each homeless person by name. So, with the consent of individuals, a vulnerability survey is completed by support workers to understand the person’s health and housing needs.

“Affordable housing matters to us all, but we have surveyed over 453 homeless families and 80% are highly vulnerable. These families, and 66% of these are single mum households, require housing with embedded health, community or family supports. Support is needed at least in the short term, for these families to stabilise and live a quality life,” Brisbane Zero Lead, Carmel Haugh says.

The proven Brisbane Zero method also disrupts the flow of people becoming homeless in the first place. The services collective does this by providing support to sustain tenancies and improving inter-department processes with community organisations to prevent unnecessary evictions. As a result, in the first four months of 2022, the demand for Micah’s various specialist housing support services alone has surpassed the calls record of the 2020 Covid-led demand by 16%.

“We have made progress in the past when there was a coordinated approach to planning and a continuous pipeline of housing supply. With the support of the Federal, State and Local Governments, in 2010, we were able to bring the rough sleeping population in Brisbane from over three hundred to less than one hundred. However, in 2022, the demand is very different, and we urgently need an evidence-based plan that is focused on the housing supply chain that works in parallel with a system of support services for people, including women and children.” Karyn Walsh, Micah Projects CEO, said.

Ms Walsh said continuing to build public housing as we currently are will not end homelessness.

“We need a place-based and comprehensive homelessness plan that will match housing with the support vulnerable people need. Supportive Housing like the successful “Brisbane Common Ground” or the scattered site “Keeping Families Together” models are proven to end homelessness here and internationally. Investment at scale for this housing type and services innovation is now urgent.”

While Brisbane Zero focuses on housing one person or family at a time, they are particularly concerned for the safety and security of women and children who have nowhere affordable to go and are returning to violent households.

“We don’t want to be in a position where we have to rely on unsafe and substandard hotels because of lack of funding.” Karyn Walsh.

Emergency shelter is a costly and unsustainable alternative to permanent housing and while it is sometimes necessary for short-term crises, too often it serves as long-term housing. Supportive housing will fill a gap in housing options through the close integration of suitable housing and tailored support services.

Brisbane Common Ground in Hope Street, South Brisbane, provides a tangible local example of how supportive housing works by offering long-term, safe, affordable housing.

Supportive housing models like Brisbane Common Ground, offer a combination of long-term affordable housing with on-site support services to people who have experienced chronic homelessness. The subtropical designed 14-storey apartment complex comprising 146 one-bedroom apartments, with a front-desk concierge service to provide a safe and secure environment and rents at no more than 25-30% of income. But Carmel Haugh says we need to innovate this type of housing in Brisbane for families, women and children for broader community social and economic benefits.

“The Queensland Government Housing Investment Fund is welcome; however, we can only end homelessness by re-imagining our housing system. Housing is critical social infrastructure and Brisbane Zero is calling for an urgent and evidence-based National Housing Action Plan.”

Ms Haugh said housing should also be a key priority for the Federal and Local Governments and it is time to have a non-partisan policy approach to a national action plan.

What can you do to help?

Call or write to your local Federal, State or Local member to encourage more social, affordable and supportive housing.

Sign and share the following petitions:

TOGETHER we are ABLE to solve homelessness in our community. Homelessness is #SOLVABLE.

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Home Truths VIDEO by Brisbane Zero