A City for All: homelessness action plan

The City of Sydney was the first council in Australia with a dedicated Homelessness unit. We invest $2.2 million a year towards helping people experiencing homelessness. This includes our operational expenditure of $1.2 million a year to fund specialist homelessness services through the NSW Department of Communities and Justice.

Our homelessness action plan sets out the City’s ongoing commitment to respond to homelessness and its impact in Sydney. The plan details our role in responding to homelessness, and identifies the following 3 strategic priorities:

  1. Monitor trends in inner city homelessness and increase access to safe and sustainable housing and support.
  2. Supporting people sleeping rough and managing the public domain.
  3. Work smarter together to have a greater impact.

Strategic priority 3 recognises that no one organisation can solve homelessness in isolation. A coordinated and systemic approach is needed.

We understand that our communities, businesses and stakeholders expect us to take a leadership role in addressing Sydney’s needs. This includes taking direct action in areas under our control, such as:

  • responding to the effects of homelessness on public spaces
  • working with a wide range of partners to demonstrate innovative solutions
  • advocating for action from other levels of government.

Inner Sydney Registry Week 2015

From 30 November to 2 December, 516 people experiencing homelessness participated in a survey across inner Sydney.

The City is investing $6.6 million over 3 years to operate our Homelessness unit – the only Council in NSW with a dedicated service – which has been operating since 1984. This includes $4.2 million funding for services to reduce homelessness through Family and Community Services NSW.

The registry survey was conducted by our Homelessness unit in partnership with The Haymarket Foundation, Neami National, Homelessness NSW and the Mercy Foundation.

The survey results are summarised in the infographic, Homelessness in Sydney. A full report on the results is available on the Homelessness NSW website.

You can also download the youth infographic.

Homelessness in Sydney.516 people surveyed. Why are people homeless in Sydney? Income: 100% of people experiencing homelessness in Sydney are living below the poverty line (less than $400 per week), 35% on disability support pension, 11% government payment, 9% working, 9% begging, 13% no income. Health: 29% of people report having a brain injury, 72% report substance abuse, 53% report a mental health issue, 64% have both substance abuse and mental health issues. History: 49% of people traumatised - emotional, physical, psychological, sexual or other. 53% have been in prison, 65% arrested, 44% report being a victim of violence. What support do people need? 14% of people just need housing they can afford, 51% need short-term support with housing they can afford, 35% require housing with intensive support. 65% of people just need housing they can afford with short-term support to get them back on their feet. Who are they? Average age: 42. 82% male. 17% female. 1% transgender. Average time on the street 5 years and 4 months. 73% Australian. 17% Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander. 10% New Zealander. 15% Other. 8% Veterans. 7% under 25 (youth). 15% over 55 years. 35% reported having a disability. Where do they stay? 60% rough sleepers. 23% temporary and crisis accommodation service. 17% Other.

Street count

The City counts people sleeping rough on the streets in summer and winter each year across the local area. The street count provides 'point-in-time' data that is collected from 1am to 3am. The numbers of people experiencing homelessness who are staying in crisis accommodation hostels is also recorded.

The next street count will take place in August 2020.

The February 2020 result represents a 10% decrease from the February 2019 count of 373 people sleeping rough, and a 23% decrease from the February 2017 count. There were also 505 people staying in crisis and temporary accommodation on the night of the count. This represents 91% occupancy, which is 3% lower than at the same time last year.

Helping end long-term homelessness

Homelessness is a complex issue with no single solution. Our Homelessness unit works 7 days a week to reduce homelessness and its impact in Sydney.

Working in partnership with government, non-profit philanthropic organisations and the corporate sector, we aim to:

  • facilitate rough sleepers out of homelessness
  • prevent people from becoming entrenched in homeless in the inner-city
  • help avoid homelessness in other regions
  • make sure those who do become homeless are assisted out of homelessness quickly
  • enact a compassionate and proactive approach to the management of public space.

Responding to homeless hotspots

A homeless hotspot is an area where a large group of people sleep rough and where there are multiple compounding issues including anti-social behaviour and decreased public amenity.

Our Homelessness unit has taken a leadership role in providing and coordinating responses to homelessness in public areas. The City works to reduce homelessness in hotspot areas including Woolloomooloo, Wentworth Park and Belmore Park in partnership with:

  • NSW Family and Community Services
  • NSW Police Force
  • St Vincent's Homeless Health
  • Mission Australia
  • Neami National
  • Launchpad Youth Services
  • Innari Housing
  • Aboriginal Housing Company
  • other specialist homelessness services.

This collaborative approach enables sharing of skills, knowledge and resource-sharing, resulting in better outcomes for both vulnerable people and the wider community. In 2015 this approach resulted in over 80 people who were sleeping rough accessing appropriate accommodation with support.

Emergency response

Following a partnership response to extreme storms in April 2015 the City and NSW Family and Community Services established the emergency response protocol for rough sleepers to coordinate and provide accommodation and other services for rough sleepers in the City of Sydney local area.

The response is activated in severe weather events and other emergencies where mainstream services do not cater for conditions posing risks for health and wellbeing of people with no access to appropriate shelter.


Link2Home is the NSW Government's service that provides referrals to accommodation for people in immediate need.

The service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week:1800 152 152


If you would like more information about the City's homelessness projects or the issues facing people who are homeless, please get in touch:

02 9265 9333

Homelessness and public space

The City aims to ensure that public space in our city can be accessed and enjoyed by everyone including people who are homeless. The City encourages responsible behaviour by all people in our public spaces while acting to ensure that disadvantaged people are not discriminated against and are treated with compassion and respect.

Public space liaison officers

The City employs 4 public space liaison officers who have the role of working with City business units, service providers and other external stakeholders to manage the impacts of homelessness in the public domain while ensuring that vulnerable people have access to the support that they need.

Partnership and collaboration

The City of Sydney works in partnership with homelessness and allied services. Collaboration between all those who have a commitment to resolving issues of homelessness and disadvantage is essential to the goal of ending long term homelessness. The City takes an active role in creating opportunities for partners to work collaboratively or to come together to exchange new information and learn from each other.

Some of our collaborations include:

Woolloomooloo Integrated Services Hub (WISH)

The WISH brings over 20 different organisations together in the same place on a monthly basis with the objective of providing coordinated service delivery, focused on outcomes, to facilitate people’s pathway out of homelessness.

Outreach services

As part of its commitment to help the most vulnerable people in our community, the City also works closely with the following organisations and services.

  • Neami: Provider of the Way2Home program that helps address the needs of the chronically homeless as well as the Inner City Assertive Outreach and Case Coordination for Vulnerable and Complex Clients, focused on rough sleepers and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples experiencing homelessness.
  • Connect 100: A program that at any given time will help 100 people experiencing homelessness find affordable housing.
  • Inner City Sydney Homelessness Prevention and Support Service for Young People: Provided by Launchpad, in partnership with the Ted Noffs Foundation and Weave Youth and Community Services.

Homelessness Interagency meetings

The City coordinates quarterly interagency meetings that attract service practitioners and volunteers from across the homelessness and allied services sector. The meetings aim to provide practitioners with access to speakers on related topics and the opportunity to share information and network with each other.

Each meeting is themed around a particular topic or issue of interest and guest speakers regularly attend. Meetings are generally attended by 30 to 60 organisations depending on the theme.

Affordable housing

Safe and affordable housing is a basic human right. It is also fundamental to an inclusive, dynamic and sustainable city. 'Affordable' is defined in relation to income. A common benchmark sees rent costing no more than 30% of a low or moderate household’s gross income.

The City is working in partnership with community groups and other levels of government to address the chronic shortage of affordable housing in inner Sydney.

Mobile voluntary services

Mobile voluntary services operate across the City of Sydney area providing food, showers and other services to vulnerable communities. We recognise and value the contribution made by mobile voluntary services in supporting people experiencing homelessness, food insecurity and disadvantage in the city.

Our policy and guidelines provide a framework for mobile voluntary services to operate across the city. They will apply to all new and existing services to ensure their operations are safe, meet the needs of service users and minimise impacts on local residents and businesses.

The purpose of the policy is to:

  • describe the ways we work with and advise mobile voluntary services
  • outline the law relevant to operating mobile voluntary services in public places
  • detail service delivery principles that we expect mobile voluntary services to follow when delivering services in public places.

The guidelines provide mobile voluntary services with information about their legal obligations and best practice approaches to meet the needs of the people they aim to support. The guidelines cover:

  • service delivery targeted to need
  • specialist support and safety
  • safe and nutritious food
  • responsible use of public places.

We developed the policy and guidelines with NSW Government agencies and local homelessness service providers. They're also informed by our mobile voluntary services study.

In 2019 we commissioned research on mobile voluntary services in the local area to understand the needs and circumstances of services users, as well as the motivations of volunteers. These services included volunteer operated vans providing food or services such as showers and other hygiene facilities.

The research, conducted in April and May 2019, shows that mobile voluntary services serve an important role providing at least 4,400 meals a week to people in need. Almost half of those accessing these services are currently experiencing homelessness, while 46% of service users are living in social housing.

Volunteer and goods donation directory

There are many organisations in the local area committed to helping people experiencing homelessness.

View the volunteer and goods donation directory if you would like to offer your time or some non-perishable items to one of these groups.

Last updated: Wednesday, 12 August 2020