Homelessness spike must  be tackled

By David Schout

Homelessness has risen in Melbourne by over 50 per cent in recent years according to a leading body which is urging candidates to prioritise the issue ahead of the November 24 state election.

The Council to Homeless Persons (CHP) has developed a “heat map” from census data that indicates Melbourne’s homelessness numbers rose from 1066 in 2011 to 1618 in 2016.

These figures indicate that the state electorate of Melbourne has the highest level of homelessness in the state.

Most of these (58 per cent) are in “severely” crowded dwellings or boarding houses. The rest are rough sleepers (22 per cent), crisis accommodation (12 per cent) and couch surfing (8 per cent).

The city spike was 40 per cent higher than the statewide average rise of 11.3 per cent (in all electorates) over the same period.

CHP CEO Jenny Smith said people experiencing homelessness gravitated to the heart of the city primarily for access to services, lighting and CCTV cameras. 

“There is a higher concentration of homelessness services in the city. The 1618 people counted on census night includes people sleeping in crisis accommodation and refuges and the CBD has a higher concentration of such facilities than suburban areas.”

The figures also indicate that men (62 per cent) made up the majority of people experiencing homelessness in Melbourne, while over a third were aged 25-34.

The heat map’s release coincided with the CHP’s “blueprint” for ending homelessness.

“The homelessness we see on the streets, in rooming houses and in refuges is the result of years of under-investment in social housing,” Ms Smith said.

“And it’s going to take years of sustained investment to reverse the situation. After decades of successive government neglect, we’re playing catch-up.”

Ms Smith said Melbourne’s figures were further proof that candidates needed to make a social housing commitment before the election.

She urged all residents and concerned parties to be proactive.

“We want people to let their local candidates know that housing and homelessness are issues that matter to them,” Ms Smith said.

“There are solutions to end homelessness, we just need the political will to implement them and that will only happen if the community speaks up.”

CHP is advocating for 3000 new public and community housing dwellings per year for the next year throughout Victoria.

Premier Daniel Andrews committed to 1000 new properties over three years on October 17.

Greens MP Ellen Sandell lists addressing the public housing waiting list as one of her key policy goals. 

“Inner Melbourne has the highest number of public housing residents in the country, but our public housing has deteriorated to crisis levels through lack of investment from the old parties,” she wrote on her website.

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