Housing crisis met with funds for Haven; Home, Safe

THE number of beds available for people experiencing a housing crisis in Victoria will rise, following a $27 million investment by the state government. 

But Minister for Housing, Disability and Ageing Martin Foley has acknowledged there’s more to be done to address the underlying causes.

Central Victoria will benefit from the government’s investment, after Haven; Home, Safe received more than $5 million to buy 15 properties in rural and regional areas.

It was one of eight organisations to receive a share of the $27 million, part of the Accommodation for Homeless program’s second phase.

HHS chairperson Sue Clarke said the charity was looking to buy in regional cities such as Bendigo, Echuca, Mildura and Geelong. 

“We really will be looking to target some very vulnerable people and put them straight into some housing,” she said. 

She anticipated some of the properties would be purchased in the next few months.

However, she suspected it would be a couple of years before all 15 were acquired. 

“The challenge now is to find the right places to meet their needs,” Ms Clarke said.

Haven; Home, Safe will be searching for properties that are close to schools, public transport and other facilities suitable for the 15 families. Picture: DARREN HOWE

Haven; Home, Safe will be searching for properties that are close to schools, public transport and other facilities suitable for the 15 families. Picture: DARREN HOWE

But accommodation is not all HHS will be expected to provide with the money it’s receiving.

“The other part of the funding, which is different and new, is the fact the funding comes with some support dollars,” Ms Clarke said.

She said families would be supported to develop the skills they needed to be able to become entrenched in a home.

They included access to drug and alcohol services, if necessary; support for schooling; and education about topics such as nutrition and budgeting.

“It’ll be a much more intense program of supporting people so they don’t end up back on the roundabout,” Ms Clarke said.

People can be involved for up to two years.

“Homelessness is not just the result of too few properties,” Mr Foley said. 

“There can be many contributing factors including unemployment, mental illness, family breakdown and substance abuse.” 

Haven; Home, Safe chief executive officer Ken Marchingo welcomes the funding announcement, which will result in 15 additional properties for people experiencing homelessness. Picture: DARREN HOWE

Haven; Home, Safe chief executive officer Ken Marchingo welcomes the funding announcement, which will result in 15 additional properties for people experiencing homelessness. Picture: DARREN HOWE

HHS chief executive officer Ken Marchingo said there were two elements to what brought clients into the agency’s front door: homelessness, and a state he described as houselessness. 

“Houselessness is those people who are economically excluded,” he said. 

“They’re priced out of the housing market or the market is not responsive to the needs of low-income earners.”

To tackle houselessness, he said there needed to be interventions.

“We’re one of the only countries in the world that doesn’t have a federal housing policy,” Mr Marchingo said.

“What we’ve got are other policies that actually drive the housing market.”

He said the state government was trying to ameliorate the impact of those factors, and the difficulties people were experiencing as a result of a changing jobs market.

Homelessness was more complicated still, because it involved social issues.

“Not all of our clients are in a position where they either recognise they need to make different choices, or if they do recognise it, whether they are ready to make different choices,” Mr Marchingo said. 

HHS assisted more than 5000 people who were experiencing housing crisis in the Loddon region in the 2016/17 financial year.

Of those, more than 700 people told the agency they were “sleeping rough.”

Minister For Housing, Disability and Ageing, Martin Foley, with a Haven; Home, Safe Cup of Kindness. The branded Keep Cup was last week launched as a fundraiser for programs supporting people experiencing homelessness. Picture: DARREN HOWE

Minister For Housing, Disability and Ageing, Martin Foley, with a Haven; Home, Safe Cup of Kindness. The branded Keep Cup was last week launched as a fundraiser for programs supporting people experiencing homelessness. Picture: DARREN HOWE

Mr Marchingo said the families that would be selected to fill the 15 new properties would be those who were ready and willing to make a change. 

“We are going to try and pick some people where we can make a significant difference,” he said. 

Ms Clarke said there were parallels between the Accommodation for Homeless program and Sidney Myer Haven, a HHS initiative that has housed 23 families in Bendigo.

The long-term program boasts wraparound services, in addition to providing accommodation.

“Many are about to graduate and go into housing in the community, with less support,” Ms Clarke said. 

“We’ll be able to backfill some of those houses.”

She said the 15 new properties would be “Sidney Myer Haven on wheels”.

“It’s taking that model, lifting the best bits out of that, and putting it in other parts of Victoria,” Ms Clarke said. 

“We’ll be evaluating as we go.”

Homelessness is not just the result of too few properties.

Martin Foley, Minister for Housing, Disability and Ageing.

HHS was not the only agency servicing the Loddon area to receive funding. 

The Australian Community Support Organisation was another of the eight organisations to share in the $27 million.

It proposes to use the more than $5 million it will receive to help people in the Loddon region with a history of chronic homelessness. 

Mr Foley said the state government was implementing a number of initiatives to help Victorians access the housing market, including boosting the first home buyer's grant in regional communities. 

“But can I also point out, the state is not the only area that can influence housing affordability,” Mr Foley said. 

“The main tools for housing affordability are at the national level.

“I’d use this as an opportunity to particularly call on the Prime Minister and the federal government to step forward into this space and work with the states, local government, and with housing agencies to address what is increasingly a national emergency when it comes to housing affordability.”

The state’s investment will provide a total of 184 additional beds for people experiencing homelessness in Victoria.