Minister for Disability Services, Mental Health and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships Curtis Pitt today reaffirmed the Bligh Government’s commitment to providing a holistic approach to addressing the complex issue of homelessness.

Speaking at today’s Anglicare Homeless Person’s Week event at Munro Martin Park in Cairns, Mr Pitt said homelessness affected many Queenslanders and was one of the key challenges of our time.

“Here in Cairns, according to the last census, there were around 1,300 people who were homelessness, and on any given day there are about 60 to 70 rough sleepers,” he said.

“Homelessness is a complex community issue which cannot always be resolved quickly or simply, as the problem is not generally just finding a place to live.

“The Bligh Government has recently released a homeless action plan for the next three years.

“Its three priorities reflect the comments provided by service providers, government organisations and clients.

“The first priority is that we need to improve the integration and coordination of services, particularly between specialist homelessness services and mainstream services.

“The second is that we need to support homeless people to become more independent and resilient and help to permanently end the cycle of homelessness.

“And finally, we need to prevent those people leaving the care of the state, for example from prisons and other institutions, from becoming homeless or being homeless in the first place.

“The Bligh Government is partnering with non-government organisations to provide a holistic approach to deliver health, drug and alcohol counselling, social housing, education and training, domestic violence and family counselling – to name a few.

“In addition, we’re building more social housing – over the past year in the Cairns region we have built 289 social housing units valued at $60 million.

“This financial year we are investing a further $20 million and will be opening a further 79 housing units.

“We are also working with the Commonwealth Government to deliver 56 National Rental Assistance Scheme dwellings and we are planning to add a further 93 dwellings to that figure in the not too distant future.”

Mr Pitt thanked the community service volunteer organisations and praised them for their hard work and commitment to Queenslanders who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

“To everyone in the sector, organisations such as yours play such an important role in local communities, particularly for people in times of acute need and crisis,” he said.

“Names such as the Salvos, Red Cross, Lifeline, Anglicare and many others, evoke immediate images of a helping hand, somewhere safe and warm to stay and someone to talk to.

“I’d like to pay particular mention to the work of Anita and Ralph Laksa from Innisfail Youth and Family Care – I’ve seen the difference they make first hand in terms of youth homelessness.

“Then there’s the work of Dr Harald Falge and the team from Street Level Youth Care and their ongoing fundraising to make the vision of ‘Harald’s House’ a reality.

“Each member of these organisations or volunteers can be proud of their achievements and the difference they make to the day-to-day lives of people who are homeless — who for one reason or another — find themselves at one of the most vulnerable points in their lives.”