A new report indicates the number of people sleeping rough across the state is down, but a Wollongong-based charity suggests there are "hidden homeless" falling through the cracks.
The number of people sleeping rough across the state has reduced by 14 per cent in the past year, according to the NSW Government.
The 2021 NSW street count, the NSW Government's second annual street count of the number of people experiencing street homelessness, was completed between February 2 and March 1.
Minister for Families, Communities and Disability Services Gareth Ward said the state-wide count of rough sleepers had recorded 1131 people, compared to 1314 people last year.
According to the 2021 count, 37 rough sleepers were counted in the Wollongong LGA, as well as two in the Shellharbour LGA, and one in the Kiama LGA.
In the 2020 results, there were 10 rough sleepers counted in the Wollongong LGA, four in Kiama and one in Shellharbour.
In its report, the government advised caution when comparing 2020 and 2021 street count results, as the 2020 results were impacted by factors such as flooding and bushfires, which delayed counts in the Illawarra.
Mandy Booker, CEO of Wollongong Homeless Hub said the latest figures are accurate for the areas counted.
"However, [they] are only a snapshot of hot spots, not to be taken out of context [as] representing all areas of the Illawarra," she told the Mercury.
Ms Booker said the Homeless Hub has seen increased demand due to COVID-19 and other external factors such as a booming property market, reduction in available private rental properties and welfare payments being reduced.
Ms Booker said she believed this year's Census data would tell a different story than the rough sleeper count numbers.
This included incorporating the "hidden homeless", such as couch surfers, people in transitional accommodation, boarding houses and people sleeping on the trains.
"Wollongong Emergency Housing has been providing outreach support to people sleeping rough, however due to lack of funding and increased demand we are not able to sustain the program," she said,
"Wollongong Homeless Hub has been advocating for a funded outreach program to deliver the support with a targeted, truly person centred approach to moving people from homelessness to home.
"It is not going to work having a one-size-fits-all (approach) to ending homelessness."
Looking ahead, Ms Booker said there needed to be commitments to funding programs such as Together Home.
"This initiative started last year and has been an approach to have targeted support and housing for people that have experienced rough sleeping and multiple occasions of homelessness," she said.
"We now must look at early intervention outside of the crisis response to support and stop people coming into homelessness and falling through the gaps."
Mr Ward said during the past 12 months, the government has worked tirelessly alongside non-government partners to prevent and respond to homelessness during that time.
"This work has helped hundreds of rough sleepers secure housing and prevented thousands of people from becoming homeless by helping them maintain tenancies in the private rental market," he said.
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