Media Release

Homelessness and Asylum Seekers

4 October 2010

 

Mercy Foundation commits to ending homelessness among Asylum Seekers in Australia
 
As part of it's commitment to end homelessness in Australia, the Mercy Foundation, a non-profit organization based in Sydney, is extending its support to Asylum Seekers across Australia.
 
The Mercy Foundation is currently in a partnership with the House of Welcome (HoW), an organization which provides housing and support services for Asylum Seekers in New South Wales. The two organizations are working closely together to find homes for women and families, as well as promote awareness of the ordeals Asylum Seekers face in Australia.
 
No official statistics recognise the number of asylum seekers who are homeless. However, a  July 2009 survey suggested 78% of asylum seekers in Victoria met the government’s definition of homelessness while House of Welcome says 75-80% of its clients face homelessness or at risk situations. This includes women and young children who are forced to live on the street or in emergency accommodation such as “back-packer” hostels.
 
Asylum Seekers come to Australia seeking a safer life but instead, find themselves homeless due to a number of reasons.
 
Firstly, many Asylum Seekers speak limited  English which minimises their chances of finding employment in Australia. Without any income, they are unable to sustain housing for themselves or their families. Their temporary status is another barrier to employment. Government-funded community-based programs provide financial or other support to less than half of the total applicants for asylum each year. In the 2008–09 program year ASAS provided services to 2692 clients – approximately 40% of the 7500 applications. 
 
Until they are granted permanent residency in Australia, Asylum Seekers are also denied access to Centrelink and other benefits which do not extend to people on Bridging Visas. The application process for protection, including appeal stages,  can take between 6 – 18 months during which time they are left on their own without any money or a place to go home to.
 
The impact of homelessness can add significantly to the severe trauma Asylum Seekers are already facing. Many of them still carry the emotional baggage from being forced to leave their homeland and having to travel the long distance to Australia where they find themselves in an uncomfortable state of uncertainty. The Government’s own research suggests asylums seekers welfare does impact on their ability to present their protection claims.
 
Some Asylum Seekers even endure months of homelessness only to find themselves deported.
 
Since 2008, the Mercy Foundation has collaborated with the House of Welcome through exchanging research on homelessness and providing grants to fund the HoW’s  13 “safe-houses” which are used to house Asylum-seekers and their families. This money is also used to provide a range of services which include, the provision of food parcels, English lessons, computer classes, employment advice and  case work.
 
This is one of the many projects the Mercy Foundation is initiating in its fight to end homelessness in Australia.
 
On September 29, the Mercy Foundation and the House of Welcome led a seminar on the issue of homelessness among asylum seekers at the Poche Centre, North Sydney.
 
For more information about the Mercy Foundation and its joint projects with the House of Welcome, please contact:
 
The Mercy Foundation                                                                     
Telephone: 02 9911 7390 
 
MEDIA REFERENCE:
Charles Phang,                                                                                                                  
Media advisor to The Mercy Foundation
Telephone: 0431816225