When Paul Langdon lost his job five months ago, he also lost his home.
- Nearly 400 people have been housed across Adelaide since the pandemic began
- Homelessness advocates say SA’s response is leading the nation
- They’re calling for a long-term solution to the problem
“For me, it’s been one of the most challenging experiences of my life,” he said.
“Miserable, bleak, some days feeling absolutely hopeless.
Mr Langdon said he became more fearful when coronavirus started sweeping the globe.
He wrote to South Australian Premier Steven Marshall to voice his concerns about the State Government’s response to the pandemic.
“These directives and guidelines given to the public weren’t addressing a very critical part of the population and that is people who are homeless and vulnerable … and that capacity to self-isolate when you don’t have a home,” he said.
Within four days, Mr Langdon was housed at a hotel in the city and connected with better services.
He said he was surprised and thrilled at the outcome.
“The simple act of writing a letter got a response,” he said.
“For me to know that I have that shelter and safety for my own protection, but also for the general community, I mean, voila! What a great result.”
Aim to ‘get people off streets for good’
Nearly 400 people — including rough sleepers — have been housed in hotels and motels across Adelaide since the pandemic began.
Of those, 16 have been moved into more permanent housing.
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Minister for Human Services Michelle Lensink said the State Government had funded the rapid response initiative in addition to its existing $550 million housing and homelessness project.
“[It will] ensure vital homelessness services to support our most vulnerable South Australians continue at this unprecedented time,” the Minister said.
“As part of our new strategy, we are embarking on long-overdue and much-needed reform of the state’s homelessness system … [which] will focus on prevention and early intervention to break the cycle of homelessness, which is needed now more than ever.”
Stimulus program needed to solve long-term problem
David Pearson from the Australian Alliance to End Homelessness said South Australia’s response was leading the nation.
“If the global pandemic has been the catalyst required to shock our community into action, to say that rough sleeping is not normal, it’s not something we should accept, then lets chalk that up as a positive side to this pandemic,” he said.
But Mr Pearson said the State Government’s response was not a long-term solution.
“[We] need to make sure that when this crisis is over we don’t tip everyone out of hotel rooms and back out onto the street,” he said.
“That won’t work for anyone — it won’t work for the pandemic’s health response, and it certainly won’t work for protecting our health system.”
Mr Pearson said a housing-first approach to end homelessness would require a stimulus program to build infrastructure and provide subsidies for people seeking a home.
“Housing authorities across the country have just opened the cheque book and started providing shelter, and once you’ve done that you can actually start to address the health and other needs of the people that are sleeping rough,” he said.
“Homelessness is not as intractable as we thought and large progress has been made in a really short space of time.”