Accom operators will be offered financial incentives to take in homeless guests for months at a time under a Tasmanian government plan to address a critical shortage of housing this winter.
Following an emergency meeting on Friday afternoon, housing minister Roger Jaensch announced the plan to use hotels, hostels, caravan parks and prefabricated units to manage the accommodation crisis.
The government has not revealed how much it is willing to pay operators.
“We already do it, we need more of that and so we are confident the hospitality and accommodation sector will come to the party if we’ve got the right deal in place,” Mr Jaensch told the ABC.
Shipping containers sited adjacent to existing homeless shelters may also play a part in the solution, according to the minister.
“It’s a different way of doing the same thing. Rather than building a village and bringing the services to it, extend the villages where the services already are,” he said. “What we aim to do is immediately secure more emergency housing stock across the state.”
Budget accommodation has long been used by Australian authorities to house those experiencing housing stress.
One operator last year described his difficult experience of accommodating homeless guests, in a post which struck a chord with many readers.
Ross Given, owner of Camden Motor Inn at Mermaid Beach, acknowledged he didn’t have the answers to the problem, saying: “We didn’t realise so many Australians were homeless, living in cars, and wandering aimlessly.
“We discovered that as a general rule, they stayed up all night drinking and smoking, caused excessive noise and problems for other guests, and had no concept of time, so they were difficult to get out at 10am.
“Also, no sooner would they check in, when their friends would arrive, all using our facilities.
“Then we encountered the ‘crisis centres’ – a variety of government-funded organisations who seek to help the homeless, the hungry, battered wives and other unfortunate citizens – all thoroughly worthwhile causes in theory, but not great for the motel where they are placed.”
Luke Martin of Tasmania’s Tourism Industry Council said the Tasmanian government had regularly paid for people to be housed in visitor accommodation and he anticipated some operators would welcome the opportunity.
“There will be some operators who will really embrace it I hope and see it as an opportunity to do something right by the community as well as obviously make some money and there will be some operators it’s not suited for,” he said.
“It’s obviously a short-term solution over the winter months.”
Anglicare chief Chris Jones said the priority was to ensure homeless people have “safe, warm beds”, Mr Jaensch anticipating cabinet would this week approve funding to implement the strategy “straight away”.