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Asia Minute: New Approach to Homelessness in Australia?

Michael Coghlan

Homelessness in Hawaii remains a challenge on every island. As authorities and nonprofit groups work together trying to improve the situation, one country across the Pacific is considering a new approach.

Some politicians in Australia are considering a change in the law that would force the government to help homeless people find housing. It would put the burden on government to act to find people a place to live.

The concept has a long way to go to achieve political traction in Australia – especially under the current right of center government.

The idea is known as a “duty to assist” and it’s been part of the law in Wales since 2015. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reports Canada is trying the policy on a limited basis.

The approach gives local authorities the responsibility to offer resources to those at risk of homelessness, and to help secure a place to live – at least a temporary shelter within eight weeks. If those efforts are not successful, the government is responsible to secure housing for people in priority need and who are “unintentionally homeless.”

Part of the program also requires participants to follow rules and guidelines established by local authorities.

One question that’s already popping up in Australia is the cost involved.

Analysis released this week by Homelessness Australia found federal spending on homelessness and public housing has fallen since 2014 – while homelessness in the country continues to rise.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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