Delivering Resilient Services

A Homelessness and Housing Crisis during the pandemic

The COVID-19 crisis brought a wider recognition of the importance of stable housing as critical to public health.

We know that people who are experiencing homelessness are already vulnerable and at a higher risk of experiencing the severity of COVID-19 because of existing poor health. Finding safe and secure places for people to stay temporarily is always challenging in regional areas, but the pandemic environment made it a priority to protect people experiencing homelessness, particularly those sleeping rough.

Housing - and its quality, stability, affordability, and location - acts as a safeguard for health and wellbeing. You cannot separate your health from where you live. Though social factors like food security, housing instability and healthcare costs are often talked about in isolated terms they are interconnected, and the pandemic is highlighting those connections.

The COVID-19 crisis delivered a generational threat of unemployment which will have lasting effects not just on housing security but on mental and physical health, family violence and many other social factors.

Individuals and families on a low income are facing particular challenges around being able to purchase and afford enough basic supplies to ensure they are prepared during the crisis and that they don’t have the means to buy extra, particularly after the Federal Government’s reduction in the coronavirus supplement. Coupled with a reduction in income from illness or loss of employment or a reduction in hours worked means their ability to pay the rent and sustain a tenancy is at risk during this pandemic, and this is not a time to be without a home.

Scott's Story

"It is hard to explain how I became homeless, it happened so gradually. Part of it was because my relationship dissolved. Suddenly I was on my own, and I searched desperately for a rental, but failed to find anything affordable and I didn't have a strong rental history.

"I was faced with sleeping rough, but my friends saved me from being on the street offering for me to couch surf at their houses. They got me going again. I owe them more than I can say.

"But I knew I couldn’t stay there forever, it was only a short-term solution. Eventually, you wear out your welcome.

"I knew I needed to do it on my own.

"When I found myself homeless during the coronavirus, I knew finding a home to rent would be even harder now. But I knew I needed to get a stable home, not just for myself but for my kids.

"I have three children and a stepson who I love dearly and then three children I never got to bring home from hospital. They are still so much a part of me, the griefgoes on every day, I’m never going to get over it.

"I have struggled with my mental health and had been diagnosed with bipolar, but by the time I was 35 it got to the point I had a relationship break down, and a nervous breakdown. This led to me being diagnosed with schizophrenia. After three months in hospital getting help, I was discharged into a boarding house in Broadmeadows.

"It was a nightmare, both the housing itself and what was going on there. Another boarder moved in, and just a few days later took his own life in the shed. I was the one who found him.

"I couldn’t stay there, I had to get out but again had nowhere to go. I’ve struggled with homelessness for over five years, mostly couch surfing and sometimes in crisis accommodation.

"It’s been a common theme in my life, battling to secure housing but I am determined to find somewhere suitable to live in the long-term so I can have my kids with me, there is nothing more important.

"During the coronavirus I had to leave where I was staying, couch surfing, because I couldn’t have my kids there and also the Coronavirus restrictions since I wasn’t actually a tenant. I need to be named on a lease.

"This is when I turned to BeyondHousing and they found me some crisis accommodation, first at a motel then at a Caravan Park where I had a cabin and cook and look after myself. I continued paying for the accommodation myself after BeyondHousing’s initial support. The Coronavirus Supplement made a huge difference to being able to stay there.

"Even better, after my application for the Victorian Housing Register was approved, I got to move into a transitional home with BeyondHousing where I am getting support for my tenancy and getting a good rental history. For what feels like the first time in years, my dreams of having my family stay with me under one roof seems possible.

"Hopefully, now I’ve laid these foundations, I can get back on my feet."

Next: Delivering Resilient Client Services In A Pandemic