The CEO of the Northern Territory's peak body for affordable housing says Katherine needs a deal on the table to rise out of its ongoing homelessness crisis.
"We need the government to come out with a plan that addresses how it is going to address the current and future shortfall of social housing," NT Shelter executive officer Peter McMillan said.
Chronically underfunded, Katherine's homelessness rate remains one of the highest in the nation, with hundreds of people waiting an average of six to eight years on the list for social housing.
The rate of unmet demand for homelessness services in the Northern Territory is twice the level of other states and territories in Australia, and Katherine is no different.
"One in every two Territorians needing assistance from specialist homelessness services can't get their needs assisted," Mr McMillan said.
There is a chronic shortfall in homelessness services.NT Shelter executive officer Peter McMillan
"We know the Northern Territory only receives 1.3 per cent or $19 million of the total $1.4 billion the Commonwealth Government allocates to all states and Territories," he said.
"We get such a tiny share because we have a small population base, however our need is so much greater than the other states."
Mr McMillan said a far more substantial commitment to increasing housing and funding to homelessness services is needed from all levels of government.
"We know there has been a whole range of investment committed for the Barkly Regional Deal that happened after a crisis in 2018, of course it shouldn't take a crisis before we move on providing accommodation to visitors coming to Katherine," Mr McMillan said.
An almost $80 million commitment between the Australian Government, the Northern Territory Government and the Barkly Regional Council was signed in April of this year after former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull visited Tennant Creek following the rape of a two-year-old girl.
The Barkly Regional Deal is the first of its type in Australia, aimed at improving economic and social outcomes.
Mr McMillan said while the deal was a "positive and encouraging framework [involving] all three levels of government talking with local community stakeholders about the priority needs for their communities", a similar deal for Katherine needed to be brought to the table.
"Katherine's rate of homelessness is certainly way up in the top league of homelessness rates," he said.
"There are some statistical issues of who has the highest rate, is it Katherine? is it Tennant Creek?
"What I can confidently say is, as far as the Katherine region is concerned, it certainly has one of the highest rates in Australia. Ridiculously high levels.
"There is no reason we shouldn't be talking with all levels of government about what needs to be done to bring [a deal] to the Katherine region."
The Minister for Local Government, Housing and Community Development Gerry McCarthy said the NT Government is supporting a range of social services as part of the strategy to address homelessness.
The Northern Territory Government, late last year, released its most "significant plan in history" to tackle homelessness, and Katherine was lucky to receive a small portion of funding.
"Homelessness statistics in Katherine and the wider Territory directly relate to overcrowding in regional and remote Indigenous homes," Mr McCarthy said.
"Our government is supporting a range of social services that will lead to better education, health and employment outcomes as part of our strategy to address homelessness.
"This government is delivering increased support for homeless people through a range of programs including the continuation of the Salvation Army's Katherine Doorways Hub."
The government's plan, backed by $8.9 million, will see three new short-term accommodation centres, modelled on the success of the Katherine Doorways Hub, delivered in the Darwin CBD, Northern Suburbs and Palmerston.
Mr McMillan said it was concerning Katherine's need for short term visitor accommodation was being overlooked.
"What we don't have in Katherine is any short term visitor accommodation," Mr McMillan said.
"So we know the NT Government commissioned a rough sleeper survey a number of years ago which looked at Darwin and Katherine, but to date we haven't seen any response to addressing the short term accommodation needs of rough sleepers in the Katherine area.
"That's concerning to us, especially when Alice Springs has visitor accommodation, Darwin will be getting accommodation, and Tennant Creek will be getting visitor accommodation as part of the Barkley Regional Deal.
"Our concern is, in Katherine there has been no such response... We need to look at how we can provide similar infrastructure for the Katherine Region."
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