New data shows that Victorian homelessness services were forced to turn away 133 people seeking help each day, an increase of 23% on the previous year.
The data, from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, highlights the importance of providing additional funding to homelessness access points in next year’s state budget, according to the Council to Homeless Persons.
As the number of people seeking homelessness help has increased by 30,000 over the past decade, so too has the complexity of their needs. More people have mental health issues, have experienced family violence, or don’t have any income.
|Increasing complexity: reasons for seeking assistance 2011 v 2021|
|Family and domestic violence||23,065 (36%)||49,035 (46%)|
|Mental Health Issues||7,673 (12%)||19,442 (18.5%)|
|No income||1,892 (5%)||7,413 (11%)|
Council to Homeless Persons CEO Jenny Smith says, despite this increase in need and complexity, there has not been any permanent increase to the essential workers in the front door of homelessness services since 2009. These are the staff who are the first port of call when people seek help, providing access to crisis accommodation, referrals, and immediate support to prevent homelessness – by helping to negotiate with a landlord around an eviction, or liaising with Centrelink to help resolve payment issues.
“Homelessness services can achieve fantastic outcomes when they have the staff and resources to help people who are at risk of or experiencing homelessness,” Smith says.
“But lack of resources means thousands of people each year are being turned away – and that means opportunities to prevent homelessness are being missed.
“When Victorians fear they will become homeless, they need to be able to reach out for help and get that help quickly. We don’t want to wait until people have lost their homes and are in crisis, because lack of housing means re-homing people is much more difficult than helping them keep the home they have.
“The Victorian Government has made important investments in programs to assist people who have been homeless for long periods. Now we need to consolidate those investments as well as in a ‘stitch in time’ squad of homelessness prevention workers.
During the pandemic the Victorian Government temporarily funded 11 additional workers to support the work involved in moving people sleeping rough into hotels. Council to Homeless Persons is calling for that additional workforce to be retained and expanded, enabling an additional 40,500 homelessness prevention or intake assessments to be completed over the next four years.