A TWO-PERSON team has helped more than 160 people experiencing homelessness in Bendigo in its first year of operation.
And there are plans to further enhance the initiative, as Haven; Home Safe seeks to employ a mental health clinician.
Assertive outreach workers Tim Townsend and Lisa Druitt staff the HeyVan, a mobile outreach service aimed at helping people who are 'sleeping rough'.
They spend each shift on the road in a bold, blue van, meeting with some of the community's most vulnerable members.
Tim and Lisa have so far recorded 240 initial contacts, mostly involving people 'sleeping rough'.
The HeyVan has seen 17 people housed, and helped others reunite with family.
"If it wasn't for Lisa, who knows where I'd be today," Salvatore said.
The 57-year-old had been homeless for some time before learning about the HeyVan.
He booked an appointment, and was well on the way to being housed within months.
It wasn't his first interaction with Haven, but Salvatore said something about the HeyVan was different for him.
"To have HeyVan after hours really helps," he said.
The van mostly operates at night, and is especially busy during winter and extreme heat.
Haven plans to introduce a rotating roster, which will extend the hours in which the service is available.
One of the most valuable services Tim said the HeyVan provided was support, both for clients and for other services.
"We're an extra set of eyes on the ground," he said.
Many of the HeyVan team's clients had fallen through the cracks in one or more of the systems intended to help vulnerable community members.
"Mental health is a real factor," Tim said.
Some people were living with disability and other health issues, with limited access to supports.
Tim was aware of people in Bendigo that had been released from prison and into homelessness.
He knew of people prostituting themselves to survive, and using dating apps to find a place to stay.
"They often end up in exploitative relationships," he said.
Lisa said she and Tim saw some of their clients every night.
"They're thankful we go and see them. They feel like someone cares about them," she said.
Sometimes, finding those most in need of help could be a challenge.
"People are hidden. They're often in squats... abandoned buildings," Tim said.
"They're not centrally located like in the CBD of Melbourne."
Some of their clients camped out in the bush. Tim said there were a "hell of a lot of people" couch surfing.
Both Victorian housing minister Richard Wynne and Member for Bendigo West Maree Edwards acknowledged government needed to do more to address the need for safe, affordable housing, both in Bendigo and elsewhere.
Visiting the HeyVan and Sidney Myer Haven yesterday, Mr Wynne said housing was central to addressing the issues identified in both the Royal Commission into Family Violence and the Royal Commission into Victoria's Mental Health System.
He said the government was considering seven properties in Bendigo as part of its 1000 homes program.
"We'll probably have rolled out by the end of this year somewhere in the order of one third of the 1000 houses," Mr Wynne said.
He expected the new houses would be filled immediately.
"We've got a long waiting list," he said.
He said the state government would continue to advocate to the federal government to raise NewStart and resolve ongoing issues with the NDIS - two causes that could help ease the pressures on vulnerable Victorians.
In 10 years, Ms Edwards said the number of calls to her office from people experiencing homelessness had not diminished.
She said she had received two just this week.
"There's still a lot more we can do," she said.
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