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What is the one thing you would tell the would-be prime minister?

23 April 2019 at 8:36 am
Staff at Sacred Heart Mission share their thoughts on what the incoming government needs to know about homelessness.

Contributor | 23 April 2019 at 8:36 am


What is the one thing you would tell the would-be prime minister?
23 April 2019 at 8:36 am

Staff at Sacred Heart Mission share their thoughts on what the incoming government needs to know about homelessness.

Homelessness has reached crisis point in Australia. One in 200 people experience homelessness.

It is a serious problem in our local community. Escalating rents, low social housing stock and rising poverty are driving homelessness across the nation.

At Sacred Heart Mission we help thousands of people experiencing homelessness rebuild their lives, every day.

On average over the last five years, more than 515 people who came to Sacred Heart Mission each year were new people accessing our main crisis services.

Of those more than 515 people, about 39 per cent are experiencing homelessness.

Our prediction is that each year, we will need 200 housing units annually for our clients in the inner south, assuming all clients from the previous year are successfully housed.

We have many great, proven services at Sacred Heart Mission, but they will not work if we cannot house people.

In the lead up to the federal election we asked our staff: “What is the one thing you would tell the would-be prime minister?”

Here is what they had to say:


Maria Coelho“Family violence is the leading cause of homelessness for women and children. On average, one woman a week is murdered by her partner in Australia. Women and children shouldn’t have to experience homelessness as a consequence of abusive relationships.”

– Maria Coelho, coordinator at Women’s House.


Amy Fox“In the last five years, there has been a 188 per cent increase in people exiting prison into homelessness. In that time, three well-known rooming houses in St Kilda, that provided housing to those exiting prison have been closed – two of which were sold and converted into ‘luxury’ apartments.”

– Amy Fox, quality officer people and strategy.


Chris Stoltz“None of the states have homelessness policies that talk to each other. The Australian housing system should ensure everyone has a secure, safe roof over their head. But we don’t have any overarching policy to achieve that.”

– Chris Stoltz, the board’s chair.


Stephen Schmidtke“We know with long-term support, people stay housed, and we have proven this. Through our Journey to Social Inclusion program, offering three years of support, at the end of this period, 85 per cent of these people were in housing. We know if we focus on the key areas of health and social connection we can make lasting changes in people’s lives.”

– Stephen Schmidtke, executive director client services.


Shari Murray“People sleeping rough often have an untreated mental illness, chronic ill health, and histories of trauma. They may have difficulties with emotional regulation because of the trauma. Trauma rewires the brain and leaves people with difficulties trusting others. Homelessness is a very complex issue.”

– Shari Murray, intensive case manager St Kilda intensive outreach team.


Celeste Brittain“We see a large group of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people at the mission, and yet they make up less than 1 per cent of Victoria’s population, but they are 10 times more likely to experience homelessness.”

– Celeste Brittain, supportive housing worker at GreenLight.


Laura McNulty“After 18 months, four in 10 people leave their social housing for the wrong reasons. They don’t get the support they need to settle in and stay in their new homes. The current ‘one size fits all’ approach isn’t working, because people need help to transition from homelessness.”

– Laura McNulty, full-time carer at Sacred Heart Community.


Wouter Spijker“At Sacred Heart Mission, a meal is only the beginning. We are a ‘one-stop-shop’ where people can get as little or as much support as they need. We use our meals, and the welcoming environment we foster, to engage people in conversations about making positive change.”

– Wouter Spijker, manager Sacred Heart Local (acting).


Zaheer Riaz“Sacred Heart Mission has been working with people experiencing homelessness for 36 years and we know people’s lives improve when they are in stable housing. We have many great, proven programs, but they will not work unless we have safe secure and affordable housing available to people.”

– Zaheer Riaz, case manager St Kilda intensive outreach team.


There are things our government can do to fix the rise in homelessness – there is a solution for everyone.

With the right policy measures in place, we know we can work with people experiencing homelessness get the right services, including quickly rehousing those who lose their homes, and keeping people housed long term.

That’s why together with other community organisations, this federal election we are calling on the government to fix Australia’s housing system.

We need as many voices as possible so all sides of the federal government know homelessness is an issue we cannot afford to ignore.

Add your voice to the Everybody’s Home campaign today so we can fix Australia’s housing system so that it works for everyone. 

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