Major drop in Sydney's 'rough sleepers', but mayor calls for more affordable housing

A woman sleeps in a doorway in Sydney's central business district. Source: AAP

The number of 'rough sleepers' in inner-city Sydney has dropped by almost 30 per cent, but the mayor says this is not the whole story of homelessness.

There has been a significant drop in the number of people sleeping on the streets of Australia's biggest city.

The latest City of Sydney street count of 'rough sleepers' counted 278 individuals this winter, compared to 386 last winter.

The decrease comes after the controversial tent city in Martin Place was dismantled in August 2017 and many of its residents were offered and accepted social housing from the State Government. 

City of Sydney's Lord Mayor Clover Moore said, "while there's a reduction in numbers compared to last year, it's still 278 people too many".

A rough sleeper.
A rough sleeper.

Ms Moore said the reduction showed that collaboration between council, the NSW Government, the police and specialist homelessness services is "is beginning to have an impact in our area".

But she stressed that rough sleepers in Sydney's inner-city only accounts for a small portion of the overall homeless population.

Ms Moore said, "across NSW there are nearly 40,000 people who are homeless and they are people from all walks of life and of all ages and backgrounds, including children".

"Being homeless doesn't only mean sleeping out on the streets, there are thousands of hidden homeless – those sleeping in temporary accommodation or boarding houses," Ms Moore said. 

"And while they have a roof over their heads, temporary accommodation and boarding houses can be hard to get into and can also be dangerous and unstable places for vulnerable people."

Despite consistent economic growth in Australia, census data showed homelessness increased nationally by 14 per cent and rough sleeping by 20 per cent between 2011 and 2016.

City of Sydney street count results 2011 to 2018.
City of Sydney street count results 2011 to 2018.
City of Sydney

Ms Moore said there were "many reasons someone can become homelessness from domestic and family violence, mental health, substance use and unemployment but the key issue is the shocking lack of social and affordable housing".

For the count, 22 City of Sydney staff and 150 volunteers traversed the city from 1am to 3am on 14 August to record the number of people sleeping rough. A count is also conducted each summer.

Other major cities also make similar counts. Last month, the City of Melbourne counted 279 rough sleepers.

If this article has raised an issue for you, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch