A highly successful homelessness program which halved rough sleeping in Victoria during COVID-19 is at risk beyond the end of this financial year warns Council to Homeless Persons.
During the pandemic, tens of thousands of Victorians without homes were provided with short term relief in hotels, and then supported into private rentals. For those with experience of long-term rough sleeping and more complex needs, a gap was identified.
The Victorian Government introduced the From Homelessness to a Home (H2H) program. H2H provides 1,845 households with stable medium and long term housing and support packages. The program is highly successful, providing participants with both a secure home andalso the integrated support they need to keep that housing, including counselling, mental health, family violence and health and wellness services.
But this significant progress is at risk, as Council for Homeless Persons outlines in a budget briefing paper that without a commitment of $55 million in the next state budget the program will end.
“From Homelessness to a Home is a true COVID-19 success story – it effectively halved Victoria’s rates of rough sleeping,” Council for Homeless Persons CEOJenny Smith said. “From Homelessness to a Home showed when we have the political will, we can get a roof over people’s heads as well as the support they need, quickly and effectively.
“Homelessness is more than missing out on a safe bed at night – it creates insecurity which conspires to deprive people of work, education, and social opportunities.
“As one H2H participant said, when you’re sleeping on the street you are in survival mode – you can’t plan beyond finding somewhere safe to sleep and your next meal, you’re in constant crisis. He described almost being poisoned by the adrenaline of constant crisis, but a safe, secure home gave him a chance to take a breath and begin to rebuild.”
The From Homelessness to a Home program is inspired by housing first principles, an international model for housing and supporting people who have experienced long term and recurring homelessness. Support needs to be available for as long as people need it, and neither housing or support are contingent on each other, meaning people have some control and choice over how and where they live.
“Long term homelessness is often accompanied by chronic mental and physical health issues – but you can’t begin to address your health when your focus is on where you can safely sleep for the night.
“Providing safe and stable housing, with comprehensive wraparound support, gives people the security to address other issues in their lives. A home gives someone the space to not only be themselves but to begin to take care of themselves.”