A different look at homelessness

Community group Residents 3000 hosted a discussion with three key speakers on homelessness in the CBD on April 6 at the Kelvin Club.

City of Melbourne (CoM) manager of social investment Dean Griggs, Salvation Army Major Brendan Nottle and Monash Health doctor, Stewart Saunders presented varying looks at the multi-faceted problem, including causes of homelessness.

Mr Griggs explained that two leading causes of homelessness were people leaving institutional care or exiting prison.

According to him, some children who are wards of the state become homeless when they turn 18 and the state no longer provides care for them.

“There are a whole range of reasons why people are homeless and there’s a lot of complexity associated with it, but these are some of the biggest triggers,” he said.

Major Nottle said the property boom was another reason people were becoming homeless.

“Another thing that’s been overlooked is that over the last 12 to 18 months, a significant number of really cheap accommodation options have closed,” he said.

One of the more notable sales was the notorious Gatwick Hotel in St Kilda. Two rooming houses on King St have also recently closed.

“It’s this whole issue of the property boom taking place in Melbourne. You’ve got people that own large properties cashing in on it and unfortunately they’re properties where homeless people felt they could easily find accommodation,” Major Nottle said.

Dr Saunders has worked in a secure extended care unit in Dandenong where he treated schizophrenia – a prominent mental illness among homeless people.

Symptoms of schizophrenia include delusions, auditory hallucinations, thought delusions and even catatonia. Emotional expression can also be blunted.

“What I want to say to you is: imagine what would happen to your life if even some of those symptoms occurred to you and they weren’t properly treated,” Dr Saunders said.

“Could you work? No. Could you get your act together? No. Could you get out of the house? Probably not. Could you pay your bills? Probably not, because your brain is not working. That’s how some people end up being homeless.”

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