Action on homelessness

Homelessness in Hobart

The face of homelessness in Hobart has changed significantly over the past several years. Although it is not a new issue, and specialist services and advocacy groups have been calling for action for many years, homelessness’s visibility in the Hobart landscape is becoming more prominent.

Housing stress in Hobart is caused by many factors, including population growth, the rise of the sharing economy and increased demand for student accommodation.

In 2018, the vast majority of people sleeping rough utilised bushland and hidden spaces. In 2019, people are seen sleeping rough in Hobart’s parks, doorways, bus shelters and other public places. Street begging is increasing.

With more than 120 000 Tasmanians living below the poverty line, lack of affordable housing is the most common reason to seek help (64 per cent of requests). 

Housing Tasmania has a growing public housing waiting list of more than 3 300 families. On average, high-priority families are waiting nearly a year to be housed, and there are more than 1 600 across Tasmania homeless on any night.

According to the information provided by specialist services, due to low rate of wage inflation, it is increasingly difficult to buy or rent a house even for Tasmanians with a stable income – more and more working families are reaching out for emergency relief as they can’t keep up with rent increases.

The City of Hobart actions to address homelessness issues

The City of Hobart’s strategic priorities and organisational activities in relation to housing and homelessness are identified in the Housing and Homelessness Strategy 2016 – 2019. 

Focusing on a number of priority areas such as planning, park and civic space management, city activation and connection, community development and strategic partnerships, the strategy serves as a point of reference for making informed and strategically beneficial decisions to ensure the best possible outcomes for the people of Hobart.

The Housing and Homelessness Strategy 2016 – 2019 is currently being reviewed to reflect the latest data on housing and homelessness situation in Hobart with a view to developing a new framework that will guide the City’s decisions in years to come.    

Additionally, working closely with the not-for-profit sector and the Tasmanian and Commonwealth governments, the City of Hobart undertakes a range of actions to address housing affordability and homelessness issues as well as to promote socially mixed communities and housing diversity.

Expand the sections below to find out more.

The Greater Hobart Homelessness Alliance

Following the Homelessness Crisis Forum held on 20 June 2019, which included more than 60 stakeholders as well as State and Federal Housing Ministers and Mayors of all Southern Tasmanian Councils, the City of Hobart convened the Greater Hobart Homelessness Alliance.

The Alliance is meeting on a monthly basis and seeks to progress a range of short, medium and long-term collaborative projects to provide sustainable housing for every Tasmanian and support to our most vulnerable community members living without a home.

As part of the Alliance’s actions, the City has been hosting a number of workshops on best practice in developing solutions to homelessness, inviting input from various organisations nationally. Some of the examples include a workshop presenting the Adelaide Zero project to end homelessness by 2020, input from the Council to Homeless Persons, and a workshop that covered infill housing influences, issues, trends and solutions. 

Housing with Dignity Reference Group

In early 2019, the City of Hobart established a Housing with Dignity Reference Group to offer an opportunity to people with a lived experience of homelessness to have a voice and a place to be heard.  This Group has the crucial role of supporting the Council in the review of its Housing and Homelessness Strategy, being a vital reference point for Council decisions about homelessness, and identifying priorities to advocate and lobby State and Federal Governments.

The group has three priority areas.  

Priority Area 1 – Data Information

  • The availability of reliable data with a projection of future social and affordable housing needs over the next five years.  

Priority Area 2 – Breaking down the stigma

  • The group agreed to take an active role in sharing their individual stories through a storytelling type project and to change the narrative from a homeless person to “a person without a home”. This will involve communicating the broadness and complex nature of this issue and share the different faces, as a worker/mother/older person.  
  • The use of media is also seen as a useful tool to break the stigma of what ‘homeless’ people look like.  

Priority Area 3 - Community Housing Models

  • The group agreed that they have a strong interest in looking at opportunities that are being discussed currently to assist in the immediate crisis to see where they can provide tangible support.  
  • The group are interested in looking at supported housing models that operate in other states and areas that are successful and could be translated into a Hobart environment.  
  • The group also agreed that they need to have a target to work towards to deliver tangible outcomes for people without a home.  

Supporting homelessness service providers

Over the past few years, the City of Hobart has developed strong relationships and partnerships with the community sector. Along with a considerable amount of staff time, the City has been providing funding to deliver a number of initiatives. 

The City has recently finished a new amenities building at the Argyle Street car park. The three-storey amenities are accessible to all members of the community and include toilets, a public shower room and a parenting room with changing, feeding and washroom facilities. 

We supported the distribution of homelessness survival packs across the city through the charities.  

In partnership with Colony 47, the Link Youth Health Service, and the Richmond Fellowship, the City has funded the provision of lockers for use by homeless people.  Curtains for people entering social housing have been distributed and the establishment of phone charge stations in a number of local non-government organisations have been supplied.  

The City also supports a number of free food services at Mathers House who share food for people in need.  These include Food Not Bombs, Vinnies Feast with Friends and the Kings Diner.

Working with a national organisation called ‘Pets In the Park’, the City supporting a pop-up pet clinic for homeless people or people at risk of homelessness. The clinic provides free microchipping, vaccination, flea and worm treatment and a health check-up. 

Homelessness Week - past years

The City of Hobart has been actively participating in Homelessness Week for the past few years. Held nationally a week-long series of events, run across the country during the first full week of August, aims to raise awareness of people experiencing homelessness, the issues they face and the action needed to achieve enduring solutions. 

In 2018, the City collaborated with the sector to tell stories of young women living in Mara House, a 24-hour supported accommodation service for young women who are homelessness or at risk of homelessness. This audio project has been added onto collecting stories from older people and families living in cramped conditions.    

2018 also saw the City working with Hobartians facing homelessness in the development of an art project across the city called “Everyone needs a Home”.

Officers worked with UTAS to host a forum during Homelessness Week 2018 in early August in the Town Hall that highlighted that homelessness can happen to anyone.  

In 2019 the City hosted the National Launch of Homelessness Week and unveiled a new Soapbox billboard featuring Hobartians Facing Homelessness – 50/50 Art Project. The community-focused art project explores the issues around homelessness using art as a vehicle to connect diverse viewpoints and create collaboration with a result that can be shared, exhibited and foster discussion.  

Homelessness Week 2020 - I Am Somebody

‘I Am Somebody’, is a multimedia art project facilitated by the City of Hobart’s Housing with Dignity Reference Group, in collaboration with Tasmanian documentary audio and photography artists - Helene Thomas and Andrew Wilson. Through podcasts and images it honours the unique stories of five community members and tells of the impacts living without a home has had on all aspects of their lives.

To listen to the 'I Am Somebody' podcasts and view the project trailer, visit the I Am Somebody page

Anti-poverty Week

The City has been partnering with the sector and young people to share issues around poverty, and also raise awareness in the community through art workshops culminating in the installation of street banners designed by young people experiencing homelessness.  

The banners were developed through the City’s Youth Arts and Recreation Centre and are a very vivid expression of the issues from the perspective of a young person.

Young people expressed that they want:

  • opportunities to learn and work in our community
  • to have homes that allow them to access the services they need
  • housing to be affordable
  • employment opportunities
  • opportunities to express their voice.

Through the City of Hobart’s Social Inclusion Strategy, Housing and Homelessness Strategy, Positive Ageing Strategy and Youth Strategy we deliver services that help educate and connect people to the right services.

We work closely with community organisations across a number of areas including emergency relief services, accommodation services, health and educational services, as well as our Community Sector Reference Group, hearing first-hand the problem of poverty in our city.

The banners were in Elizabeth Street Mall and Criterion Street for the week of 13 October – 21 October 2019.  

Community Grants Program

The City’s Community Grants Program provided support to such initiatives as the Colony 47 Christmas Lunch and Mara House Art Program, art project involving residents at Common Ground, Tassie Mums Emergency Essentials Drive that provides children in emergency situations with essential items such as underwear, socks and toothbrushes to name a few.

Raising awareness about homelessness

The City of Hobart has been an active participant on the Southern Homelessness’ Services Group convened by Shelter Tasmania. The group comprises the community housing and homelessness sectors who work together to share common issues, solutions and learnings. 

The group also works to raise general community awareness about homelessness, advocate to Government for funding and deliver a wide range of initiatives.

The City has also been involved in the Emergency Relief Sector group, in the Colony 47 Regional Reference Group and is actively participating on the Council of Capital City Lord Mayors working group that is actively working towards a positive change, and National Strategy to address homelessness across the country.