Victorian Parlimentary Inquiry into Homelessness
The persistent and continued growth of homelessness is unacceptable. But it is eminently solvable and preventable, given the right policies, programs, and the political and community leadership to make this happen.
In our role advocating for people experiencing homelessness in our catchment, we made a submission to the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into Homelessness. Our submission centred on evidence and experience of what works and where further investment and improvement is needed.
There is an urgent need to invest in social housing – Victoria has the lowest level of social housing stock in Australia (3.5%). We cannot end homelessness without more homes.
The current resourcing of the sector, both support and housing outputs, will never meet demand. Thirteen weeks for a support period is an arbitrary amount of time, and limits flexibility and service tailoring. Clients are presenting with more complex issues and all services need to be resourced to respond to that.
An improved response for crisis accommodation is required urgently – purchasing beds from sub-standard private motels and caravan parks with poor amenities is unsafe, expensive, and further traumatises very vulnerable families and individuals.
There needs to be an examination of social policies that impact on homelessness – namely those relating to poverty. The current rates of welfare payments and a failure to increase rent assistance in line with rental affordability does not enable people to have a decent standard of living. Greater recognition that policies around mental health, family violence, alcohol and other drugs all have an impact on homelessness.
Continued and greater assistance is needed for people to sustain a tenancy – be it private or public – and prevent the spiral into homelessness.
What is working:
Early intervention through Education – programs like Keeping Home, an education program developed by BeyondHousing targets people at risk of homelessness or who have recently left the system, focusing on building capacity to manage a tenancy on their own.
Private Rental Support - The Private Rental Access Program is resourced appropriately and is giving people an opportunity to access secure private rental. The Sustaining Tenancies at Risk program is consistently keeping people housed and preventing them from entering the homelessness systems.
Tailored Housing options – housing projects based on our demand data, which indicates more than half the people we see are single. We are building small, manageable units across our region. The involvement of philanthropic and private sector is boosting capacity, but still relies on the ability of Housing Associations to contribute their own capital.
Communications & Marketing
Social Housing: Construction of new long-term housing and increase the supply of social housing including Housing First and supportive housing models for tenants needing ongoing support to maintain a safe tenancy. It is cheaper than treating homelessness after it occurs. It is the correct economic and social course to pursue.
Crisis Accommodation: Funding for trialling a dispersed model that is tailored to regional areas. We want to develop a model that gives households time and space to consider housing options, that is safe, that is supported and reduces the trauma people experience in this highly stressful time.
Funding: Flexible and increased funding for support so all people who need assistance, get it in a timely manner. Early intervention: Greater funding for educational programs around tenancy and financial skills, particularly at schools and with emerging communities.
Data Collection: More consistent approach to data entry across the state, to help better understand homelessness, it’s impact on the community and the social impact of specialist homelessness services. Current data systems don’t always show the narrative.
End Poverty: A focus from all levels of government on poverty. Unless we talk about, and put resourcing into reducing poverty, homelessness will continue to be an insurmountable problem.
Youth Foyers: Expand the provision of Education First Youth Foyers to provide proven pathways to vulnerable young people back into education and employment as a basis for a rich and productive life.