|Title||Homelessness and severe storms: a case study of the June 2016 East Coast Low|
|Year of Publication||2016|
|Institution||Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC|
Historically, emergency planning for severe weather and natural disasters has focused on the housed population. However, people who do not have a house – people rough sleeping, living in their cars, couchsurfing or staying in shelters – are uniquely impacted by severe weather. There is as yet no Australian research documenting the homeless community’s preparation for, response to and recovery from an event like the 2016 East Coast storms and floods that can be drawn on for emergency planning. Using interviews with homeless service providers and clients, this research documents the homeless community’s experience of those storms in two locations. Interviews highlighted that long-term wet weather is felt to have the greatest impact on people’s physical and mental health and on services’ ability to provide bedding and shelter. The main impacts were loss of temporary dwellings, bedding and possessions, anxiety and isolation, and ability to look after pets when evacuated. Evacuation shelters were heavily relied upon by those experiencing homelessness and people presenting here required medical and psychological for mental health issues and substance use withdrawals and also areas for pets. However, existing homeless services are already under-resourced, and many struggled to provide the extra support needed during and after the storms. Few services report having a relationship with emergency services, and in some areas any potential relationship was complicated by broader punitive policies and misperceptions about homelessness. A framework for increasing the resilience of the homeless community includes creating mutually beneficial relationships between emergency and homeless services that could facilitate greater understanding of homelessness and natural hazards.