A VICTORIAN homelessness council has welcomed the meeting between key central Victorian homelessness stakeholders to discuss support for people sleeping rough across Greater Bendigo.
The City of Greater Bendigo met with representatives of Haven Home Safe, Victoria Police and Parks Victoria as the rough sleeping situation worsens across the region.
Council's data indicates 2,700 people in Greater Bendigo are waiting to access low-income housing while the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare said 3441 people presented to homelessness services in Bendigo in the 2019/20 financial year with 1084 of those were homeless at first presentation.
Mayor Jennifer Alden said council was aware of areas across the community where rough sleeping was occurring, some of which on City owned or managed land.
"There is no quick fix to helping rough sleepers in our community into more stable accommodation," she said.
"Given the previous trauma that some rough sleepers have experienced, it can take a long time for support agencies such as Haven Home Safe to build a rapport with them and get to the point where help will be accepted."
Council to Homeless People chief executive Jenny Smith said she had seen similar meetings between key homelessness stakeholders in Melbourne.
"We've seen this type of meeting with leaders coming together in communities to say "we've got a problem and we need to have a coordinated" in capital cities for quite some time and it is effective," she said.
"These coordinated efforts lead to more bang for dollars spent and efforts made.
The situation in Bendigo is dire and getting worse; that is the same as it is everywhere in the country, Bendigo is no exception.Jenny Smith
"This is the unfortunate result of the exodus we've seen from capital cities to regional centres like Bendigo. Housing affordability before was not good and getting private rentals for people on the nation's lowest incomes was difficult and it's worsening.
"Other people coming in from Melbourne are better options for people wanting to rent out houses than people on low incomes or who have difficulties in there lives."
Ms Smith said the state government's budget pledge of over $5 billion for acquiring and building social housing across Victoria will make a difference to the "dire" situation in years to come.
The state government announced in July that people in Bendigo living with mental illness will soon have the security and stability with the construction of 14 supported independent living homes in Arnold Street, North Bendigo home to almost $5 million in funding.
The vacancy rate in the city is low at 1.3 per cent according to SQM Research and the median rent price per week for a one bedroom flat is $220 - 57 per cent of the federal government JobSeeker payment.
Currently there are just two affordable one bedroom properties in Bendigo and Ms Smith urged more was needed from the federal government.
"The Victorian Government has made considerable contributions but it will take some years to see that on the ground," she said. "There is no policy at federal level.
"The actions that are needed are for the Federal Government to raise the Centrelink income and join with state and territories to increase stimulus for social housing. They had the opportunity to do this in the past 12 months and they still have that opportunity but there appears to be no appetite for them to do so.
"There is no plan other than what the Victorian Government has proposed as homelessness grows and this problem isn't going away.
"But I really welcome these important organisations coming together in Bendigo; they will learn from our capital cities."
IN OTHER NEWS:
The meeting between City of Greater Bendigo, Haven Home Safe, Victoria Police and Parks Victoria also focused on the designated use of public land across the city, some of which can be used for short term camping, however council does not provide any long-term camping grounds.
"To remove the option of short-term camping involves changes to the reservation purpose, which can take up to six months," Cr Alden said.
"Also, in doing so and evicting people from these sites, the rough sleepers will move elsewhere in the community and divert the problem but not solve it.
"Following council's decision last month, the City has committed to working with Haven Home Safe to relocate current campers at Huntly Lions Park and review the status of the park in early 2022.
"There will be monthly meetings to plan a way forward and consider where Local Laws changes can be made, keeping in mind that alone will not solve this social challenge."
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