The City of Sydney seems determined to attempt to finesse success out of failure.The following excerpt is their result and analysis of the winter Rough Sleepers Count they condcted. Its worth noting that within a fortnight of that count taking place, police arrived in the dead of night and destabilised many of the rough sleeper campsites in direct contravention of the much vaunted NSW State Government Homeless Protocol to which NSW Police are a signatory,but only occasionally an adherent.

This is email is a little later than our usual communique’s to release the results of the Street Count but the results were a little surprising so we wanted to do a little investigation around this. Last August you counted 289 people sleeping rough on the streets of the City of Sydney’s Local Government Area (LGA). That’s a decrease of 129 people counted 6 months prior to that.

SydneyHomeless Response:There is a cyclical seasonal fluctuation in rough sleeper numbers in Sydney with (unsurprisingly) more in summer than winter months.

Those of you who have participated in previous counts or who track results on our website would know that the number of rough sleepers counted in the February 2010 Street Count was 418, an increase on the numbers of rough sleepers counted in August 2009 which was 399.

SydneyHomeless Response: Unfortunately City of Sydney figures ALWAYS grossly understate the number of Rough Sleepers in Sydney City,for the following reasons.

  • City of Sydney Rough Sleeper count is conducted between about 1am & 3 am -many & especially the elderly long term rough sleepers sleep in the day.On our counts the day sleepers identified comprise 40%-45% of sleepers.

  • COS count does not include those sleeping in vehicles,or those sleeping on private property with or without the tacit approval of security guards.

  • Last COS count also does not include many who explicitly “hid” from counters as per our advisement, due to police action in the aftermath of the previous Homeless Rough Sleeper Count.

  • Two long term Asian homeless camps numbering between 40-60 sleepers on any given night have absolutely no contact with ANY agencies.

As we knew many of you would have questions about such a significant drop in numbers, we did a little sleuthing to try to get an understanding of what those results might mean.

The good news is that there is reason to be hopeful that we are witnessing an actual decrease in the numbers of people sleeping rough on the streets of the LGA.  Way2Home the assertive outreach service, and the City’s project for housing people with complex needs are able to confirm that together they assisted 37 people to exit the streets and enter long term housing or other forms of supported accommodation in 6 months between the February and August counts (accounting for potentially 29% of the decrease). At the Homelessness Interagency last week a number of agencies reported that they have either assisted people to exit the streets or that they are speaking with people who used to live on the streets and are now in stable accommodation.

SydneyHomeless Response: I would be ashamed of the numbers quantified here were I in receipt of the funding levels these agencies enjoy.Since June 2009 we have enabled 298 previously homeless to exit marginalisation by taking personal control of their financial wellbeing-via our IT based Off-the-Streets Program

The February 2011 Street Count will give a better indicator as to whether we are witnessing a real decrease or not but for now it is great to feel that the combined efforts of everyone is having an impact.  This of course includes you because without your efforts, we simply would not know what changes in the numbers if any are occurring.

In November we will be attempting to carry out surveys with all of the Rough Sleepers across the LGA to create the first comprehensive profile of rough sleepers in the inner-city.  More importantly this will allow us to identify those who are particularly vulnerable and at risk so that we can concentrate on providing them with the support they need as well as opportunities to get off the streets. I will shortly be sending out emails with more information regarding this event for those who are interested in participating.

SydneyHomeless Response: Our advisement continues to be to not complete surveys or other information collection attempts.The information can be used against our homeless community and is a vital index measure for funding- whether we see any benefit or not.Their claimed success (37 plus an unquantified number) is window dressing. There is also the fact that the information collected has been and will continue to be shared with anti homeless agencies.

Thank you once again for your contribution to ending homelessness in the inner-city and let’s hope that we continue to track the numbers downwards.