Emergency Relief At Saturation Point
13 November 2012 at 8:47 am
Emergency relief organisations are at saturation point trying to provide housing support for hundreds of thousands of Victorians, according to new research.
The pressure on Victoria’s emergency relief sector is revealed in a new survey by ER Victoria – the state-wide peak body for the emergency relief sector – called 'The Last Safety Net' Housing Issues in the Emergency Relief Sector’.
“Our research shows that 130 emergency relief agencies are at saturation point and we are having to deal with housing support issues that are traditionally not dealt with by us,” the Sector Development Manager of ER Victoria, Jessica Murrowood said.
The report comes as the latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows an 8% rise in homelessness since 2006.
“We are robbing Peter to pay Paul as ER Agencies constantly reassess how they support the growing number of people in need, with already limited resources and funds, because of Victoria’s housing problems and the neglect of the public housing system,” Murrowood said.
“The people that are now coming to our ER agencies are coming for help because they are facing eviction, or they are homeless and coming to us for a meal, a shower, a tent or a swag.
“Worryingly, ER services are also providing supplementary support due to lack of housing services in their region, such as advocacy around housing issues, and placing clients in emergency accommodation sourced from their agency’s own resources.
“This is increasingly challenging, with high demand on agencies creating pressure on their resources and leading to an unsustainable service under the current environment. In their limited capacity to provide direct and indirect housing support to clients, ER services are themselves labouring under a burden that is at saturation point, and we are the last safety net,” Murrowood said.
Traditionally, emergency relief agencies provide critical support to individuals and families who for various reasons may be experiencing immediate and personal distress due to a financial emergency or domestic crisis.
The Victorian Emergency Relief Snapshot Survey found:
- Across 130 agencies, the total number of clients that presented to Victorian ER agencies over the last 12 months was 266,694.
- 35% of respondents indicated that between 51-100% of clients presented with a housing related issue over the last 12 months, identifying housing insecurity as a major cause of clients seeking ER.
“We need an immediate increase in funding from the Victorian Government for housing support services to allow our organisations to maintain their support for vulnerable Victorians,” Murrowood said.
“We recognise the longer term work being done to address the problems of the public housing system, and sourcing ways to grow more affordable housing stock, but help is needed now because our services are stretched to the limit.”
"This report serves as a “canary-down-the-coal-mine” warning on growing need in our communities and should prompt action from state and federal governments to address the housing crisis," Penny Wilson, the CEO of VCOSS said.
“This report confirms what we have been hearing from our member organisations for some time – that the lack of affordable housing is putting more people at risk of homelessness and disadvantage and forcing emergency relief services to make hard choices about where to provide assistance."
VCOSS says tackling Victoria’s housing crisis must be a priority for the State Government which should:
- Convene an Affordable Housing Task Force with community organisations and industry
- Provide sustainable funding for sustainable public housing
- Develop financial models that can attract private investment for affordable housing
- Expand the availability of early intervention programs for homelessness.
"We need to act now to tackle homelessness and housing stress or else we will be paying for it for years to come," Wilson said.