Blind mum 'petrified' in 'unsafe' public housing amid calls for $1b funding injection

This week, Homelessness NSW called for $1 billion to be spent each year for a decade to double the supply of social housing by 2050.

As the rate of Australians facing homelessness soars to unprecedented new heights, calls are mounting for immediate government funding to address the lack of public housing, with almost 60,000 applicants currently on the waitlist in one state alone.

This month, Homelessness NSW called for the state government to spend $1 billion each year for a decade to double the supply of social housing by 2050 in its pre-budget submission. The not-for-profit said there are some 57,000 applicants waiting for social housing, with a record 68,000 seeking help from homelessness services in 2023.

CEO Dominique Rowe said NSW must build 5,000 homes per year to lift the state's share of social housing from one in 20, to one in 10 homes. "NSW has failed to invest in social housing for decades. Last year, just one-fifth of people seeking help from homelessness services could find long-term accommodation," she said on Thursday.

A social housing complex in Surry Hills, Sydney.
There are some 57,000 applicants waiting for social housing in NSW. Source: Getty

Almost 60,000 applicants waiting for social housing in NSW

"Our ability to give NSW’s most vulnerable communities a roof over their heads is falling, while housing stress and homelessness soar. Right now, many of the 57,000 households on the social housing waitlist are forced to wait up to a decade for a safe and stable place to call home."

Homelessness NSW also implored the government to spend $30 million over three years to provide more temporary accommodation for those in desperate need, and to ensure one-fifth was reserved for women and children experiencing domestic violence.

Pictured is an unidentified woman in a public housing in Sydney
Anti-homelessness advocates are calling for an immediate funding injection into the housing sector in NSW. Pictured is an unidentified woman in a public housing in Sydney. Source: Getty

Sydney woman Katrina Hyland is living in social housing in Balmain, in the city's inner west, and agreed the situation was dire. Speaking to Yahoo News Australia, Hyland said while she was extremely grateful to have a roof over her head, the system "really needs to be improved", particularly when it comes to the "matching process" of placing applicants into social homes.

Sydney woman calls for 'better matching process' after violent incident

"I've worked in community services for over 40 years, and the last couple of years I've become blind and had a whole lot of personal domestic issues happen to me, so that's why I'm here," Hyland told Yahoo. "But you know, it really needs to be improved and I think especially that matching process, when it comes to who lives where and does what, is missing."

Hyland said in her complex there are "a lot of little children and mothers" who are often coupled in the same vicinity as those with serious mental health conditions. She recalled recently her neighbour, a man living with schizophrenia, allegedly smashed the windows to her home along with those of a neighbour, an elderly woman.

A public housing unit block in Sydney
As anti-homelessness bodies call for funding, a woman has shared a harrowing incident that occurred in her publicly-funded home. Source: Getty

Hyland, who is blind and has special needs, said the ordeal left her "petrified", having no idea what was taking place in front of her in her very own home. "He was screaming and yelling and smashing things, and then violently attacked all my glass windows and the older lady's next door," she said.

"It's very, very frightening, because I can't defend myself anymore. All I could do was scramble down on the floor and ring the police."

Ordeal leaves woman 'scared to be at home'

The Sydney woman explained it's these types of incidents that reflect the need for a more rigorous matching process — making sure that when applicants are placed in government homes, neighbour compatibility is also a consideration.

"I was so, so frightened," Hyland said of the ordeal. "He's obviously got acute mental health issues and he's obviously has got a right to live somewhere, but you've got to be mindful of who you place in a community group situation — there are little children here, there's older people.

"Vulnerabilities are quite high. So when they do that sort of assessment about who comes in, they've got to be mindful of that." Hyland is in the process of seeking a transfer out of the accomodation due to what she says are the dangerous conditions residents are forced to live with.

Housing department weighs in

Speaking to Yahoo News Australia a spokesperson for the NSW Department of Communities and Justice said there was a "zero-tolerance" policy in place for anti-social behaviour in public housing.

NSW Premier Chris Minns, Member for East Hills Rose Jackson and Minister for Housing Kylie Wilkinson announce the New South Wales Government's changes to social housing maintenance.
In November, NSW Premier Chris Minns and Housing Minister Rose Jackson announced the government would try to lift its status as one of the state's worst landlords with an overhaul of how public housing repairs are handled. Source: Getty

"Homes NSW is committed to ensuring the health and safety of all social housing customers and has zero-tolerance for illegal or antisocial behaviour," the spokesperson told Yahoo.

"We have a robust policy framework in place to address these kinds of issues in NSW Government social housing properties. We take any complaints seriously and report them to NSW Police as required. Homes NSW manages housing transfer requests and once an application is received and a suitable new home is identified, we make an offer to the resident(s).

"Homes NSW will contact the Balmain resident on Monday the 11th of March to discuss this matter directly with her."

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