The Hon. J.S. LEE (14:40): My question is to the Minister for Human Services about the support available for people who are experiencing homelessness. Can the minister please provide an update to the council about the support for rough sleepers during extreme winter weather conditions?
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (Minister for Human Services) (14:40): I thank the honourable member for her question and for her interest in this important issue. I would just like to clarify on the public record in relation to the matters of homelessness and the issuing of Code Blues and Code Reds, given that there has been quite a bit of spirited discussion in the public domain on this matter.
There are a range of homelessness services that operate 24 hours a day. These include the Homelessness Gateway, the domestic and family violence hotline, and a range of services. Within the CBD, we have the Street to Home Service which offers daily assistance to people sleeping rough, as well as a range of other services which operate during business hours, including the Hutt Street Centre, Baptist Care and other services which provide services such as case management and meal services and the like that people would be quite familiar with.
In the last sitting week I was asked questions in relation to mental health and homelessness and I wanted to correct the record about some of the data that is being used. I need to clarify that Connections Week, which was held in May this year and May last year, May last year being for the first time, is a program which is to connect with people who are sleeping rough in and around the CBD, seeking to discover people who may or may not be currently receiving a service. So it is a very useful way of us being able to determine how many people there are who need to connect with a service.
I think it is important to say as well that it is always dangerous for people to sleep rough and we encourage them not to. Some people are resistant to services and do avoid them and, when you talk to the Hutt Street Centre, they can provide some anecdotal examples of people who they worked on for several years before they were able to connect with them, and then subsequently house them. Housing people is the ultimate aim in this whole process. Sleeping rough, we actively discourage and provide services to.
Just to talk about Connections Week again, 2018 was the first time that this was run. This service has replaced the previous surveys that used to be undertaken. It is a much more thorough way of determining how many people are sleeping rough, but it is a point in time. Both in 2018 and 2019, Connections Week ran over two nights, the difference being that, in 2019, there was the addition of a second evening shift each night.
In 2018, there was a single shift from 4.30pm to 9.00pm for two nights. In 2019, there were two shifts per night, both 4.30pm to 9.00pm and an 8.15pm and an 11.15pm for both those nights, which enabled the groups to do a much more thorough search of people. I think in the last sitting week I referred to 148 people being surveyed in 2018. It was actually 143, but that is in comparison to 119 people being surveyed in 2019. So those are the two metrics which ought to be considered together.
As I said at the outset, regardless of the weather conditions, the Homelessness Gateway service is available 24/7 for people who are experiencing homelessness, and Street to Home offers additional services.
Through the Adelaide Zero Project, which I have spoken about on a number of occasions, the partnership between non-government organisations, the Don Dunstan Foundation and the state government through a range of agencies but particularly through the South Australian Housing Authority, 161 rough sleepers from a by-name list have been housed, which is a great achievement and more than have ever been housed before.
We know that we need to do more to reform the homelessness sector to continue to house people off the streets. While funding continues for housing and homelessness services throughout South Australia, we are currently working on developing a housing and homelessness strategy to address issues, where we can permanently re-house services with assistance.
In the meantime, the task of determining when triggers need to be pulled for Code Blues is determined by the sector in consultation with the Bureau of Meteorology and the Housing Authority. It needs to be clarified that a Code Blue simply extends some existing services. It is a specific response for when it's particularly dangerous for people to be outside. I always welcome anybody's suggestions about how we can do these things better, but I think it's important to clarify what those particular services are.
Mr Simon Schrapel, who is the CEO of Uniting Communities, has been on radio to clarify how that operates. His comments are publicly available, if anybody wants to examine those. I am sure that he would welcome any discussion that anybody wants to have with him.