Remember when Kevin Rudd promised to halve the rate of homelessness in Australia?

That was 2010. On census night 2011 the Australian Bureau of Statistics counted 105,237 Australians living on the streets — a 17% increase over the previous five years. There’s no evidence to suggest that number isn’t higher now.

Rudd, in fact, did little to meet his promise. As the current federal government now complains, while Labor promised increased funding at the last election it didn’t make provision in the forward estimates and didn’t commit to a national agreement beyond the current deal, which expires in June.

Today, Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews announced an extension and $115 million for housing and support services. But that’s some $44 million less than Labor promised — with no guarantee of funding after 12 months.

Charities have desperately welcomed the injection — but rightly complain about the lack of certainty in a one-year deal. The head of one homelessness charity told ABC Radio there’s currently a 200,000-home shortfall in supply.

Homelessness, like Aboriginal affairs has become, should be a bipartisan issue. Both sides have failed. The next 12 months are crucial in arresting an alarming trend.

Peter Fray

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