Homelessness is a significant and growing issue in the inner west community and takes many forms including sleeping rough, couch surfing and staying in unstable or overcrowded accommodation.

The drivers of homelessness include a shortage of stable and affordable housing, family violence, long-term unemployment, family breakdown, mental illness and drug and alcohol abuse.

A short course on homelessness

We have developed a course to provide an introduction to the issues of homelessness and give guidance to our residents who want to know how they can help.

It's a short interactive course that takes about 15 minutes to complete. At the end you will know how to report locations where you notice people who may need housing assistance. This in turn enables Council to connect people sleeping rough to homeless services that can offer help.

This is one way you can make a real difference for the more vulnerable people in our community.

Introduction to homelessness short course


Rough sleeping

Rough sleeping is the most visible form of homelessness, involving people sleeping with little or no shelter at all. Every night in the inner west there are significant numbers of people who resort to sleeping in car parks, shopfronts, parks, trains, tents or in vehicles. These people are some of the most vulnerable in our community. They represent just a small part of the overall homelessness picture in the Inner West: less visible is the number of people staying with friends (couch surfing) or in overcrowded; temporary, unstable or inadequate accommodation.

Street counts 

The Inner West street count of people sleeping rough has been conducted annually since 2016. Teams of volunteers head off from midnight until 2am visiting homelessness hot spots to record the numbers and locations of people sleeping rough. They count people sleeping in places such as parks, tents, carparks, shopfronts, behind offices or in vehicles parked in suburban streets. As only a fraction of our streets and parks can be visited on the night, it is probable that street homelessness is higher than the street count numbers suggest. |

The street count is undertaken through a partnership between six organisations committed to addressing homelessness in the Inner West. Volunteers from Inner West Council; Newtown Neighbourhood Centre; The Exodus Foundation; Wesley Mission; NSW Department of Communities and Justice and NSW Police make up the counting teams.

All parties to the street count are committed to using the information gathered to benefit people who are sleeping rough. This includes following up with outreach worker visits in the days after the count and advocating for more homeless services. All information is non-identifying and information regarding the location of a person sleeping rough is not released except where agencies are required to respond to the person with a follow up visit.

The Inner West street count is part of a statewide street count, which in February 2021 was conducted in over 65 other metropolitan and regional areas across NSW. While there are some local differences in the way the counting is undertaken across NSW, all counts are informed by counting protocols and methodologies provided by the NSW Department of Communities and Justice.

Street count graph

More about the counts

Why is the count done at this time?
The Inner West street count has been conducted in February every year since 2017. We conduct it on the same night as the City of Sydney street count, and now many other Councils are conducting their street count on the same night. This aids our ability to compare data from previous years. 

How did you count them?
Counting teams use an app that has been developed by the Department of Communities and Justice to record locations and numbers of people sleeping rough, and this is complemented by a paper-based tally sheet which is used to cross check the app data. All counters are provided with a manual prior to the street count that details the processes for counting, including advice to count people from a distance to ensure they are not disturbed by the counting teams; not engaging with people and not taking photos. 

What is the geographic scope of the count?
The count is conducted within the boundaries of the Inner West Local Government Area (LGA). As it is not feasible to visit every street and park in the LGA, the counting teams visit areas where we are aware that people are staying or where they have stayed in the past. The suburbs visited during the 2021 count included Ashfield, Leichhardt, Rozelle, Balmain, Enmore, Newtown, St Peters, Marrickville, Tempe, Sydenham and Stanmore. 

Were the people counting familiar with people sleeping rough?

The majority of counters are from homelessness services and other agencies that form part of the Inner West homelessness outreach collaboration. They are all provided with the Street Count Manual and are invited to a briefing session.

Do you ask people before you give information to others?
After the street count outreach staff from Wesley Mission, Newtown Neighbourhood Centre and Housing staff from the Department of Communities and Justice visit the locations where people were counted to offer assistance. Nobody is required to accept assistance. Anybody who would like to receive assistance from case workers or accept an offer of temporary accommodation must complete a consent form which enables services to work with that person to find housing solutions.

Who provides assistance (including emergency assistance) to homeless people? Does Council or government take any responsibility?
The Inner West homelessness collaboration conducts regular monthly outreach patrols and includes representatives from homeless services, NSW Health, Department of Communities and Justice (Housing) and Inner West Council. These outreach teams attempt to engage with rough sleepers and offer assistance with housing or other needs. Often the teams arrange temporary accommodation on the spot. In the case of a health emergency, participating agencies would contact emergency services on the rare occasions that a person may require such a response. 

Council's homelessness policy

Inner West Council's Homelessness Policy (PDF 294.7KB) recognises the vulnerability of rough sleepers and the significant numbers of people sleeping in our local parks and streets.

Council is committed to reducing the number of people in this situation by helping to connect them with homelessness services. How are we doing that?

Multi-agency outreach - What's being done?

Council has developed strong partnerships with a range of homelessness services and state government agencies to form multi-agency outreach teams. These teams patrol the streets and parks of the Inner West early in the morning, mostly around Ashfield and Newtown.

This collaboration between Inner West Council, state government and homeless services has permanently housed 27 people over the period from January 2019 until June 2020, including many long- term rough sleepers. The teams include staff from Council, Department of Communities and Justice (Housing), Sydney Local Health District, Newtown Neighbourhood Centre, Missionbeat, Wesley Mission, NEAMI Way to Home, the Exodus Foundation and the Aboriginal Corporation for Homelessness and Rehabilitation Community Services (ACHRCS).  Additional outreach patrols have been conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic, assisting more people to access the additional hotel beds provided as part of the state government's COVID-19 response.

Watch this great multi-agency open discussion on some of the causes of homelessness and what is being done to help.

In their own words - What's it like to be in their shoes?

All the policies, reports and data you read can’t ever hope to convey what it must feel like to find yourself without a home. Watch this short video to hear what people with lived experience of homelessness say about what it’s like to be in their shoes. Their stories are compelling.

How to help

Anyone who is concerned about the welfare of a person who is sleeping rough can contact

  • Wesley Homeless Services on 1300 259 789 or SHSInnerwest@wesleymission.org.au
    for Ashfield, Summer Hill, Croydon, Dulwich Hill, Haberfield, Leichhardt, Lilyfield, Rozelle, Balmain
  • Newtown Neighbourhood Centre on 9564 7333 or karen@newtowncentre.org
    for Newtown, Petersham, Lewisham, Stanmore, Enmore, Camperdown, Marrickville, Tempe, Sydenham, Annandale

Homelessness services

There are a number of services within the inner west that are dedicated to assisting people experiencing homelessness.

  • Exodus Foundation
    8752 4600
    180 Liverpool Rd, Ashfield NSW 2131
    Free breakfast and lunch daily, showers, social, medical, welfare and crisis support
  • Lifeline
    13 11 14
    24/7 crisis support and suicide prevention
  • Link2home
    1800 152 152
    24/7 referral to accommodation and services
  • Mental Health Line
    1800 011 511
    24/7 assistance with mental health issues
  • Missionbeat
    1800 306 461
    Outreach, welfare checks, transport to accommodation and services
  • NSW Domestic Violence Line
    1800 656 463
    24/7 referral service
  • Newtown Neighbourhood Centre
    (02) 9564 7333
    Boarding house services and homeless assistance
  • Wesley Homeless Services
    1300 259 789
    Accommodation support, case management services, early intervention and prevention programs
  • Youth off the Streets
    8217 4700
    Comprehensive youth (16-25yrs) homelessness service; youth housing

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Page last updated: 08 Mar 2021