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© PIAC 2008 homelessness and human rights presenter: robin banks chief executive officer 7 april 2008
© PIAC 2008 overview piacs work on homelessness key issues emerging and responses impact of homelessness on human rights
© PIAC 2008 piacs work on homelessness began with research on homelessness and legal needs developed into Homeless Persons Legal Service with Public Interest Law Clearing House (PILCH): four free legal clinics in 2004; nine in 2008 hosted and supported by welfare agencies supporting homeless people staffed by lawyers from PILCH members clinics provide free legal advice and undertake casework service undertakes policy and law reform work and advocacy in minor criminal matters
© PIAC 2008 issues identified in initial research civil and administrative law fines victims compensation tenancy and eviction debt and consumer credit social security OPC and Public Guardian matters discrimination identity issues criminal law criminal offences, eg, assault, theft, etc breach of parole AVOs outstanding warrants police powers of search and seizure
© PIAC 2008 issues identified in initial research family law applications for residence, contact or specific issues orders enforcing parenting orders of the Family Court enforcing child support payments child protection immigration
© PIAC 2008 difficulties with accessing legal system legal system seen as complex, confusing and impenetrable lack of understanding of court processes and procedures court staff lack an understanding of barriers homeless people must overcome to access justice level of disability and illiteracy in population: mental illness, intellectual disability other more urgent priorities: shelter food Safety community workers not trained to identify legal problems or source assistance
© PIAC 2008 key findings of research legal problems and homelessness: may cause homelessness may prevent moving out of homelessness (particularly debt issues) are harder to deal with when homeless homeless people have distinct legal needs arising out of their transient existence unmet demand for legal services that are targeted and delivered appropriately to homeless people
© PIAC 2008 key issues emerging from clinics and liaison on-the-spot fines violence affecting homeless people identification access to public housing lack of prison post-release supports access to dental and mental health services difficulties with court processes resulting in escalation
© PIAC 2008 on-the-spot fines research lead to Not such a fine thing! (2006) identified how fines process escalates debt and creates barriers to escaping homelessness recommended: training on homelessness and complex needs for those issuing fines improved process for dealing with unpaid fines greater capacity of agencies to write-off/waive fines review of comparative levels of fines across laws changes being implemented by NSW government
© PIAC 2008 violence affecting homeless people
© PIAC 2008 violence affecting homeless people limited understanding of the nature of violence experienced by homeless people: victims of targetted but purposeless attacks from people who are not homeless victims of targetted attacks from people who are not homeless to steal property or money victims of attacks by other homeless people on the streets in shelters in temporary accommodation: boarding houses, homes of family or acquaintances lack of systems to collect and assess information about violence against homeless people inappropriate responses to violence
© PIAC 2008 identification needed to access many services and entitlements difficulty of lack of secure place to store identity documents cost of and barriers to obtaining identity documents: need three forms of identification to get birth certificate - approved types include documents that you would need to prove identity to obtain,eg, passport, medicare card, credit card, etc delays in obtaining documents can result in loss of benefits or entitlements lack of documents may prevent participation in training or education need to be cautious - avoid making identity theft easier
© PIAC 2008 access to public housing applications for priority housing rejected: applicant allegedly can afford private rental decision based on applicant receiving Centrelink benefit and rental assistance! individual receiving Newstart Allowance (around $260) can afford to spend 60% of their total income (around $160 per week) on rent provided with print-outs from private rental agency web- sites tenants evicted from public housing because of behaviour - noise and nuisance homelessness is in conflict with human right to a secure place to live
© PIAC 2008 prison post-release supports and issues lack of information about or support to access accommodation on release - reliance on welfare agencies lack of safe options for women Centrelink crisis payment - one weeks benefit to last two weeks: insufficient to even pay for emergency accommodation for that period discrimination on the basis of criminal record: serious impacts on employment prospects
© PIAC 2008 impacts of lack of support and protection high levels of re-imprisonment and re-offending - within two years of release in NSW: 40% imprisoned 64% convicted of new offence likely to be directly linked to these and other problems: unstable housing and transience a predictor these failures to support indicate failure to ensure: right to adequate standard of living right to social security right to equality
© PIAC 2008 poor access to dental and mental health services cost of dental treatment prohibitive lack of government programs significant negative impacts on: health capacity to gain employment limited mental health support available in welfare agencies: reliance on crisis teams lack of supported accommodation options both reflect a failure to protect the right to highest attainable standards of physical and mental health
© PIAC 2008 difficulties with court processes lack of comfort around legal processes or understanding resulting in failure to attend court problems arising from failure to attend court: issuing of warrants convictions need to make processes more accessible and less intimidating: advocating for special circumstances list or similar need to provide support to ensure attendance and effective representation: created specialist advocate position within HPLS
© PIAC 2008 thank you
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