Opportunity is the answer to Murray Bridge homelessness: politicians

File photo.
File photo.

This Homelessness Week, AC Care is challenging the maxim that there is no such thing as a free lunch.

It will offer one at Holy Redeemer Catholic Church, on Ind Street, Murray Bridge, today between 11am and 1pm.

Community members are encouraged to bring friends, family and neighbours.

As The Standard reported on Tuesday, homelessness is a surprisingly big problem in the Murraylands.

More than 500 people sought help from AC Care's Murray Bridge homelessness service in 2016-17.

The organisation's leaders called for increased government payments, more affordable housing and a greater investment in mental health services.

The Standard asked our federal and state politicians, Tony Pasin and Adrian Pederick, to respond.

Mr Pasin said he subscribed to the idea of "economics of opportunity" and the principle of a fair go rather than a free ride.

"While I do not espouse to have all the answers ... I do believe that entrenched disadvantage or impoverishment cannot be solved by doubling the number of services or having another step-increase in welfare payments," he said.

He noted welfare had already increased in real terms over the past 30 years.

He also noted the federal government had promised tens of millions of dollars to projects which would reduce youth homelessness, encourage investment and reduce impediments to new affordable housing.

It had also reviewed mental health and begun channeling extra funds, such as an extra $199,000 for Headspace Murray Bridge, through country health networks.

Almost $175 million would be spent on new mental health and suicide prevention initiatives.

State MP Adrian Pederick said any measure which would reduce homelessness and improve social inclusion was worth considering.

But he, too, focused on the need to provide every individual with "the greatest opportunity to succeed" through employment and training opportunities.

He said there was space for both governments and non-government agencies to provide affordable housing, as happened at present.

He agreed that regional and remote South Australia needed adequate resources to target mental health with both prevention and intervention strategies.

State Communities and Social Inclusion Minister Zoe Bettison said the state government would spend a record amount on homelessness this financial year.

“South Australia leads the nation in its response to homelessness because we properly fund services … and continue to find innovative solutions to this complex issue,” she said.