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Vic gov urged to maintain temporary COVID-19 homeless support workers as 49 percent of calls for help go unanswered


Nearly half of calls for help to a major Victorian homelessness service went unanswered in January, as Council to Homeless Persons urges the Victorian Government to keep temporary COVID-19 supports, including 11 additional frontline workers, to meet surging demand.

During the pandemic the Victorian Government temporarily funded 11 additional frontline homelessness workers to support the work involved in moving people sleeping rough into hotels. In a budget briefing paper, the peak body for homelessness services calls for this additional workforce to be retained and expanded to enable staff to see people currently being turned away.

It is estimated they could complete an additional 40,500 homelessness prevention or intake assessments each year.
New data from Salvation Army Statewide Crisis Centre shows 49% of calls to its support service were abandoned in January. Meanwhile, people reaching out to crisis support has surged more than 200% in the past decade, and 50% in the past year with 26,101 people making after hours contact in 2020/21. (See below graphs)

“In the past decade an extra 30,000 people have sought help from homelessness services – but there has been no permanent increase since 2009 to the essential workers who see people when they come through the door of a homelessness services,” said CHP CEO Jenny Smith.

“During the pandemic we saw that homelessness is a problem we can fix – we just need the political will to do it.

“The workers who see people when they first come to a homelessness service are the vanguard of homelessness prevention. They help people in crisis sort out problems with Centrelink so they can pay rent, or help resolve a problem with a landlord and prevent an eviction, or help someone apply for a new tenancy. Right now countless opportunities to prevent people slipping into 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.”

87% of people who came to homelessness services at risk of homelessness were able to stay housed, but just 28% of people who were already experiencing homelessness when they came for help left with secure accommodation.

“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 invest in a ‘stitch in time’ squad of homelessness prevention workers.”

Number of people seeking assistance86,150105,510
Mental health issues18%31%
Family violence36%46%
No income4%9%
Source: Australian Institute of Health Welfare, 2022, Specialist Homelessness Services Collection.

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