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Homelessness Taskforce 99

By John McCulloch - posted Monday, 15 May 2000

The Homelessness Taskforce 99 is a multi-charity taskforce comprising representatives from all the major Brisbane charities which set out to find how many homeless people there are in Brisbane, how many are male and how many are female, and what age groups they fall into.

This information will enable the charities, the State Government, and the Brisbane City Council to plan more accurately and meaningfully the best ways to assist homeless people.

However, although the short term goal of the Taskforce is to measure the extent of the problem in order to establish better ways of assisting the homeless, its long term objective is to discover processes and procedures which can be implemented to prevent people becoming homeless in the first place.


The stereotypical homeless person is no longer a 40s+ male carrying a bottle of cheap plonk under his arm. Today it is more likely be a person of either sex, under 25, and perhaps suffering a mental illness or from substance abuse.

They sleep in homeless persons’ hostels, squats, seedy boarding houses, or rough (eg park benches, bus shelters, train stations, under bridges, in caves, etc)

Of course, homelessness is one of the hidden faces of poverty. Governments haven’t the slightest idea what to do about the problem. Leave it to the charities, they can fix it.

Do you think this is a cynical view? Well go and have a look for yourself.

In many ways the birth of Homelessness Taskforce 99 happened by chance.

When the new president of the Society of St Vincent de Paul took office in 1997, he decided that his first task should be to travel around Queensland to meet as many staff and volunteers as possible, and see the problems facing them first hand.


However, every time he spoke to the media, from Cairns to the Gold Coast, he was asked how many homeless people there were in their particular area.

He soon discovered that unfortunately there were no statistics of homeless people for Queensland, or indeed for most parts of Australia.

Clearly this was unsatisfactory, not only for all the charities but also from the point of view of the State, Federal, and Local Governments, none of which could plan any meaningful assistance to a group for whom no statistics existed.

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About the Author

John McCulloch AO is the convenor of the Homelessness Taskforce 99. He is a part-time researcher for St Vincent de Paul and a tutor in the School of Management at QUT.

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