Funding needed now for rough sleeping crisis in Byron Shire

Homelessness in the Byron Shire - Photo credit Drew Rogers -web tile.jpg

Byron Shire Mayor, Michael Lyon, is calling on both the state and federal governments to step up desperately needed funding for housing and homelessness services in Byron Shire.

The Mayor said he was “gutted” to find out Byron Shire had, for the second year in a row, topped the 2024 NSW Street Count for rough sleepers.

“We now have 17 per cent of the entire state count here in Byron Shire which is beyond devastating,” the Mayor said.

“The funding for homelessness services and vital social housing is relatively high in Sydney, while local funding is shockingly inadequate to meet our needs.

“I am pleased with the recent NSW Government investment in a 12-month pilot of a Byron Shire Assertive Outreach program, but to be frank, one year is not going to be anywhere enough to help get our most vulnerable community members into secure housing, especially when it is not accompanied by housing pathways.”

“We need a five-year funding commitment, just the same as was announced by the NSW Government for other services. We clearly have the most need and the regional inequity is beyond comprehension,” the Mayor said.

“We also need adequate housing, including social housing, to support people to exit homelessness.”

Social housing provides government subsidised, long-term rentals for people on very low incomes who cannot meet their housing needs in the general market.

“Despite having more rough sleepers than the City of Sydney, we have less than 5 per cent of the amount of social housing available – this cannot continue.”

“Without these essential pieces of the puzzle, we’re all working with our hands tied behind our backs.”

“We see Sydney’s level of rough sleeping is stabilising and, at times, reducing – this is a direct result of the investment in housing and services.

“Our local community members deserve the same right to be housed, with the support they need to live with dignity,” the Mayor said.

The 2024 Byron Shire Street Count reflects a significant increase from 2023 (300 people), 2022 (138 people) and 2021 (198 people). Note: the 2022 count did not include people in Brunswick Heads or Mullumbimby because of extreme weather.

Council worked alongside the NSW Department of Communities and Justice to carry out the street count in the early hours of 29 February and 1 March 2024 in Byron Shire. Areas included were Byron Bay, Belongil, Suffolk Park, Brunswick Heads, Mullumbimby and Ocean Shores. The count excluded holiday makers and others travelling and sleeping in their vehicles temporarily.

/Public Release. View in full here.