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Victorian Government Unveils Homelessness Action Plan

15 January 2018 at 2:34 pm
Luke Michael
Increased support will be given to the 1,100 Victorians sleeping rough every night, with the state government launching a $45 million homelessness action plan.         

Luke Michael | 15 January 2018 at 2:34 pm


Victorian Government Unveils Homelessness Action Plan
15 January 2018 at 2:34 pm

Increased support will be given to the 1,100 Victorians sleeping rough every night, with the state government launching a $45 million homelessness action plan.          

The Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Plan was unveiled by the Andrews Labor government on Saturday, aimed at getting rough sleepers housed quickly and strengthening support services to protect vulnerable people from falling into homelessness.

The plan focuses on the housing and support needs of three groups affected by rough sleeping; the recently homeless, those who have been sleeping rough for an extended period and those at risk of chronic homelessness.

The government said evidence suggested there had been a significant increase of Victorians sleeping rough in recent years.

“Over the five years to 2016–17, there was a 72 per cent increase in the number of clients sleeping rough when first seeking support from specialist homelessness services. This trend is consistent with a wider increase in homelessness – both in Victoria and nationally – and an associated increase in demand for help,” the action plan said.

“In Victoria, the number of clients assisted by specialist homelessness services has grown to more than 100,000 each year. Escalating issues have driven the increase in rough sleeping in Victoria, including increasing housing costs, lack of affordable housing, the inadequacy of Centrelink income support and family violence.

“Service systems trying to respond to this crisis often don’t have capacity to successfully resolve chronic homelessness or intervene earlier and prevent people from sleeping rough in the first place.”

The action plan was led by then-executive director of the Brotherhood of St Laurence Tony Nicholson, who worked closely with frontline agencies and put together a detailed situation appraisal including an evidence base for his recommendations.

The result was a government strategy looking to address rough sleeping through early intervention, quickly providing and supporting ongoing stable accommodation, and fostering an effective and responsive homelessness service system.

The government will provide $19 million to establish outreach teams in high-need areas across the state, including Melbourne CBD, Dandenong, Frankston, Ballarat, Geelong, Bendigo and Swan Hill.

These workers will actively seek out and provide support to people experiencing homelessness by connecting them with emergency accommodation and health services.

Other initiatives include $9 million to develop six supportive housing teams to tackle chronic homelessness, an additional $4.5 million for therapeutic services in major inner city crisis accommodation centres and $13 million to build 106 accommodation units with on-site support.

Victorian Minister for Housing Martin Foley said the government wanted to “break the cycle of homelessness in Victoria”.  

“That means intervening early and connecting rough sleepers with the services they need to turn their lives around,” Foley said.

“Through our investments in assertive outreach teams and additional rapid housing, we will give vulnerable Victorians a pathway out of homelessness.”

The Victorian Council of Social Service (VCOSS) has lauded the government’s action plan, and said it “sets us in the right direction to reduce homelessness in Victoria”.

“There are often multiple and complex reasons for homelessness and these don’t magically disappear when accommodation is found,” VCOSS acting CEO Mary Sayers said.

“Providing the complete spectrum of wrap-around services someone may need – such as counselling, legal and financial help – supports people to stay in housing.

“By getting to the bottom of what has caused someone to be at risk of or experiencing homelessness, we are better placed to ensure they can get their life back on track, and remain in their home for the long-term.”

Sayers also called on the Turnbull government to “step up and do their part” to address homelessness around the country.

“Now it is time for the federal government to come to the party and develop a National Homelessness Plan and provide the additional funding to make real, long lasting change,” she said.

The Council to Homeless Persons (CHP) also hailed the action plan as a “critical turning point in homelessness policy in Victoria”.

“This is the piece of the puzzle we’ve been calling for, for a long time. It puts a wedge in the revolving door between homelessness, prison and hospitals,” CHP CEO Jenny Smith said.

“Moving rough sleepers into a home is futile if they don’t have the ongoing support they need to keep a home and stay on track. This plan recognises that those who have been homeless long term, need very intensive support, sometimes for years, to overcome their mental health issues, addiction, isolation and childhood trauma.

“We’re saving taxpayers money in the long run, as we’ll see less people cycling through hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters… [Saturday’s] announcement is a light at the end of the tunnel.”

This policy announcement comes just days after CHP warned that there had been a 13 per cent increase in school children experiencing homelessness in Victoria.       

Luke Michael  |  Journalist  |  @luke_michael96

Luke Michael is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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