University of Adelaide, Vice-Chancellor helps raise awareness of homeless plight in Adelaide

The University of Adelaide’s Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Peter Høj AC, will join other South Australian community and business leaders at the Vinnies CEO Sleepout on 17 June 2021, to raise funds for and awareness of homelessness in the community.

Having returned to Adelaide after eight years away and now walking to work quite early, Professor Høj sensed a noticeable increase in homelessness in the city. This made his decision to participate in and raise funds for the Vinnies CEO Sleepout  easy.

“It seems to me that more people are now sleeping on Adelaide’s streets than I’ve ever seen before. That speaks to the extreme vulnerability of people who need genuine care and support in their lives,” Professor Høj said.

“I am concerned that the real problem in the community is likely to be even deeper than what we see on the streets.

“By participating in the CEO Sleepout and by making a personal donation to the cause, I hope to be able to play a small part in raising awareness of this issue, and in helping to support the excellent work of Vinnies SA,” he said.

Professor Høj and other participants of the Vinnies CEO Sleepout will sleep without shelter on one of the longest nights of the year. The event will be held at the Adelaide innovation precinct Lot Fourteen, where the University of Adelaide’s Australian Institute for Machine Learning (AIML) is a key tenant.

The University of Adelaide’s Professor of Housing Research, Emma Baker, said the issue of homelessness is both visible and invisible in the community.

“What we immediately think of as ‘homelessness’, with people sleeping rough, is really the end point. But there are other forms of homelessness that are much harder to see, involving people right at the end of the housing spectrum,” said Professor Baker, who is also Director of the University’s Centre for Housing, Urban and Regional Planning.

“These are people in the most precarious situations, with no safety net, who are either in unstable rental accommodation, in crisis care, or ‘couch surfing’ from one property to the next. It’s entirely possible that their next step will be to live on the street, or out of their car on the side of the road,” she said.

Professor Baker said homelessness helped to illustrate a greater need for low-cost ‘social housing’, which can be made available to people on very low incomes and on the cusp of homelessness, or to help provide homeless people with some much-needed accommodation.

“We need to have a conversation about the relative value of housing in our community. This is about helping to protect very vulnerable people from ending up on the streets and providing them with a sense of support, dignity and shelter, which in turn will lead to other improvements in their health and mental health,” she said.