Illegal Ipswich crisis housing for addicts faces threat of closure

In a quiet street in Goodna, west of Brisbane, a group of homeless men with drug and alcohol addictions are living together and supporting each other through their recovery.

The men are grateful for the opportunity and say the living arrangement is helping them.

They rent the rooms through the community group Goodna Street Life, but there is a problem — it is operating illegally as an unregulated accommodation provider, something the Queensland Government has called a crime.

Goodna Street Life president Helen Youngberry said the group had helped hundreds of people who were turned away from other service providers who were already at capacity, some with long waiting lists.

"People who are homeless or have an addiction don't have weeks to wait to get processed into a house they may be able to go into if they can afford it," Ms Youngberry said.

"We put people first and money second."

The organisation rents four houses and uses them as share or temporary accommodation for about 17 people in the Ipswich region.

Photo Goodna Street Life is hoping this share house will soon be legal.

Inside share house crisis accommodation ABC News: Rachel Riga

Three of the houses are sublet to the tenants.

But Ms Youngberry said the Queensland Department of Housing and Public Works had issued them with notices warning they would be shut down without proper accreditation.

"When you have a teenager who comes to you crying because he's been bashed, we put people like that on lounges in our houses," Ms Youngberry said.

"Some might say that's not right under this and that rule — and I agree it's not for the long term — but at the end of the day, these people are human beings.

"No homeless person should be told they don't fit the criteria; no drug addict wanting rehabilitation should be told that they don't fit the criteria."

'A room I can call my own'

Jonathan Dempster, a recovering ice addict, said having a stable place to stay for the past five weeks had helped him turn his life around.

Photo Jonathan Dempster says his share house has taught him to live a normal life again.

Jonathan Dempster in his share house in Goodna ABC News: Rachel Riga

"It's good to have the support of a place like this. It's good to have a room I can call my own," Mr Dempster said.

"It's teaching me how to live like a human being again, it's keeping me off the streets and out of trouble."

Ms Youngberry said Goodna Street Life was working with the State Government to get the share house and organisation accredited under the Residential Services Accreditation Act.

She said she was confident they would be properly accredited, but the process would cost them thousands of dollars.

'People die, people are exploited'

Queensland Housing Minister Mick de Brenni said unregulated and unaccredited accommodation providers needed to comply with the legislation.

"They are not safe places. We have indicated to any unregulated provider that we will assist them to meet the basic standards of operation that are set out in the law," Mr de Brenni said.

Photo Mick de Brenni says operating an unaccredited housing service is a crime.

Mick de Brenni in Parliament AAP: Dan Peled

"Let's be clear about this, operating one of these services is a crime."

Becoming registered under the Residential Services Accreditation Act requires an accommodation provider to pay for safety checks, have staff properly trained and check whether they have a criminal history.

This week, Queensland's Ministerial Housing Council — which includes representatives from the family and domestic violence sector, the Property Council of Australia, Tenants Queensland and the Real Estate Institute of Queensland — met to discuss unregulated and unregistered accommodation providers.

"The council said for the Government to allow this, it would put dozens of Queenslanders at risk of harm and it would set the state back 20 years in terms of supported accommodation," Mr de Brenni said.

"In unregulated accommodation services, people die, people are exploited and building fires occur."

He said the State Government had committed $1.8 billion over the next decade to a housing strategy that would include the construction of 5,500 new social and affordable homes.

'We have a housing crisis'

The latest Census data showed more than 21,671 people in Queensland experienced some form of homelessness in 2016, a 14 per cent increase since 2011.

Federal Government figures also revealed in the last financial year, more than 41,000 people across Queensland were assisted by a specialist homeless service.

Micah Projects head Karyn Walsh said Queensland needed more affordable renting housing for low income earners.

"Clearly we have a housing crisis in the sense that so many more people are living with housing stress, and people on the lowest incomes are struggling to get affordability," Ms Walsh said.

"We don't have enough social housing and we certainly don't have enough supportive housing. We need to keep working on a plan to get more housing, it's an issue that involves all sectors."

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