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Victoria’s homelessness sector in crisis, facing workforce exodus


Troubling new research from Victoria’s peak homelessness advocacy body shows more than half of frontline workers are considering quitting the sector as workloads soar and social housing supply stagnates.

The Council to Homeless Persons survey of more than 250 workers also reveals vulnerable people are increasingly being turned away from overfull frontline services. Two-thirds of frontline workers said this had become more common in the past year.

About 70 per cent said their workload had become busier over the past 12 months, while 55 per cent said they had considered leaving the sector in the past six months.

Frontline workers also detailed their despair at the years-long wait for social housing, underfunding that leaves increasing numbers of people unable to get the help they need and the personal toll when clients are forced to return to a violent home or sleep rough.

When asked about pressure on services over the past five years, 96% of respondents said work was busier.

About 60 per cent said it had become harder for people to secure a place in social housing over the past five years. Only five per cent believed it was not harder to secure social housing compared with five years ago.

Council to Homeless Persons CEO Deborah Di Natale warned Victoria’s homelessness workforce was at breaking point as demand for housing help reached record highs.

“Victoria’s social housing system is buckling under pressure. Immediate and significant funding is needed to stop an exodus of workers that would devastate the sector and turn the homelessness crisis into a catastrophe,” she said.

“Workers are burning themselves out making impossible choices every day about who to help and all too often that help is a years-long waitlist for housing that does not exist.

“While staff on the frontline used to be able to get a housing offer for clients within 12 months, they’re now telling us they haven’t seen offers to any of their clients for several years.

“The situation is unacceptable and untenable. The state government needs to build at least 6,000 new public and community homes each year for a decade to fix the backlog and catch up with other states.”

CHP is urging the government to invest $20 billion over four years to build public and community housing as well as $39.4 million to expand homelessness and housing intake services.

“Sadly, those who make it onto the waitlist represent the tip of the iceberg. Many more can’t even get through the door of a service. They’re trapped in a violent home, move from couch to couch or sleep in a vehicle,” Ms Di Natale said.

“The state government cannot afford to kick the can down the road. Investing now will save lives, and billions in justice, health and community spending.”

Fast facts:

  • Homelessness in Victoria rose 24% at the last Census
  • In 2021, more than 30,000 Victorians were without a home on Census night – almost 6,000 more than the previous Census in 2016
  • In March, there were 60,564 applications for public and community housing on the waiting list
  • Victoria lags behind every other state and territory on social housing, with public and community housing residents making up just 2.8% of Victoria’s households

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