THE former prime minister Kevin Rudd described his four-year $1.1 billion partnership agreement with the states to tackle the ''national obscenity'' of homelessness as a ''downpayment'' on a 12-year plan, but prospects for its renewal appear bleak.
The Homelessness Minister, Brendan O'Connor, said his ''preference is to have another national agreement on homelessness … but the issue is going to be the extent and nature of our ongoing investment''.
With no provision in the federal budget for a renewed deal, he said the government would need to find savings to fund it, and would expect matching funding from the equally cash-strapped states.
''We need to renegotiate it, we need to see whether we can get consensus,'' he said, speaking from Berlin last week, where he was inspecting homelessness projects in what was officially national homelessness week.
''The federal government hasn't determined the level of resources it could put in at this point and we would have to find savings to provide those resources.''
The first four-year agreement has funded about 180 projects around the nation, and was the centrepiece of the Rudd government's promise to halve homelessness by 2020.
But the money runs out by June 30 next year and state ministers, who are scheduled to meet Mr O'Connor on August 31, are sceptical the federal government will fund another agreement.
The Rudd government released a white paper on homelessness in December 2008 and made it one of the new government's highest priorities. One of the new prime minister's first directives in 2007 was to order his ministers to spend a night in their local homeless shelter and look at how many people were being turned away.