ACT Housing Minister Shane Rattenbury.

ACT Housing Minister Shane Rattenbury. Photo: Karleen Minney

The ACT Government hopes to have cleared the hurdles blocking churches from opening their doors to the homeless overnight in time for winter.

The issue was raised more than a year ago by the Safe Shelter Group, who wanted to provide overnight respite accommodation using a number of inner-north churches during the winter.

The government has previously blocked the idea, citing concerns over the safety of volunteers and the homeless as the churches did not meet building codes for such use.

Having been grilled by supporters of the program at an event on Monday, Housing Minister Shane Rattenbury said he hoped the government could find a solution before winter.

“There are some occupational health and safety issues that need to be worked through, relating to the sleepers, the workers and the suitability of the buildings,” he later said.

“The government is working with community and church groups in the ACT and their private building certifier to progress this issue.”

Mr Rattenbury said Environment and Sustainable Development Directorate staff had met with church representatives, as well as with their private building certifier, to address the complexities of fire and life safety involved in the housing model.

But until then, the provision of crisis accommodation in the capital will remain insufficient, ACT Shelter executive officer Leigh Watson said.

“There is clearly a need for creative, caring solutions to the problem,” she said.

“We would like to see the government work hand-in-hand with the churches and other community organisations who daily work with the homeless, to try and make this work.”

The community housing organisation launched its policy document on Monday, which stated an estimated 1360 people are homeless on any given night in the ACT.

“There is not sufficient permanent, safe and secure housing available to people who have been homeless,” it stated.

“This is reflected in the very long wait times for allocation of public housing.”

The document recommended implementing a preventative approach to homelessness, including the provision of support to people to maintain tenancies at risk.