It’s Homelessness Week from August 6 to 12, so we sat down with our local expert, Mardi Beaumont, Case Manager, from our Community Connections program to discuss the issues and how things have changed over the past few years.
Homelessness is rising, but why?
Six years ago we could usually find affordable housing for people. Even if it was run down or poor quality, or just a caravan or bungalow at the back of someone’s house we could find something for people. Now there’s just nothing.
So it’s increasing rents that have created this problem?
Yes in part. The rising house prices in Australia have resulted in rising rents that are just beyond what people on income support can afford. Over the past decade, Victoria’s median weekly rent has increased 75.7 per cent while the median household income grew just 38.8 per cent. An Anglicare Report showed that in Victoria, less than 5 per cent of the private rental market is affordable to people on income support and of this statistic, less than 1 per cent were affordable to single parents and single people.
What are the other factors?
There has been a tightening of the eligibility criteria for accessing the Disability Support Pension (DSP) through Centrelink. People are going on to Newstart with sickness allowance and staying there for years instead of being rolled over to the DSP. So in effect they are living well below the poverty line for a much longer period of time and it’s just not enough to live off.
Also many people who would be eligible for the DSP may be rejected as they application process is more complex now. This is where we can help support people through this process and ensure they are able to present the documentation to get the support they need.
At a structural level there is a complete shortage of housing and related services across the board: private, public, transitional, crisis, and also specialist housing for at risk groups such as Mental Health, Disabilities, Aged, Youth, Aboriginal and post- State Care and post-Justice.
I don’t see many homeless people in my neighbourhood. Where are homeless people sleeping?
Most homeless people are not rough sleepers. They are couch surfing, in crisis centres, staying in insecure accommodation like rooming houses and caravan parks or sleeping in their cars. There is also a significant amount of people who are in housing stress and are at risk of homelessness as well as those who are living with family violence and needing to find safe accommodation as quickly as possible. Only a small proportion of people sleep out in the open on the street. See this interactive map to get a picture of homelessness in your neigbourhood.
Who are the most at risk of becoming homeless?
Women and children make up a disproportionally high segment of the homeless population, and people over 55 who rent are also significantly vulnerable.
So if my marriage breaks down and I’ve got children, I’m at risk?
Yes, unfortunately it can happen fairly easily and quickly. Having children can limit available options to work and without support, maintaining housing costs, keeping up with utility bills and putting food on the table, can quickly become a problem.
There are many other contributing factors too. Health issues, a sick relative who needs caring for, family violence, sometimes women are experiencing all these things and working is just not possible or practical.
What’s the role of mental health and trauma in homelessness?
Studies indicate that a very high proportion, up to 90 per cent of chronically homeless persons have experienced significant trauma – both prior to and as a result of being homeless.
However, we do know that giving people secure and affordable accommodation is a key step to improving overall health and wellbeing. Without a home, people live minute to minute and meal to meal. There’s no thinking about the future when you don’t have a home.
What does the AccessCare, Community Connections team do?
We cover the Kingston City Council and Bayside areas and work with people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, have physical and psychosocial health issues, and are falling through the service gaps.
We are not a crisis service but we are keen to engage with rough sleepers in the area – with a view to link them into appropriate services and to fast track social housing applications, and are also happy to provide advice and service coordination for people at risk of homelessness
What can we in the community do?
- Call for developers to allocate a percentage of new developments to affordable housing.
- Donate or volunteer at your local church which could be helping with meals, fundraising or a clothes drive. Or for gereral volunteering opportunities visit Volunteering Victoria
- Buy a coffee during homelessness week at a Street Smart café
- Take action by being part of the solution calling for change, visit Everybody's Home to join the campaign.
- Have more conversations in your community about homelessness and affordable housing. Get informed of the facts by visiting websites such as Council to homeless persons and Launch Housing.