Some issues have been brought to stark prominence by the Coronavirus Pandemic. Homelessness is frequently front of mind in politics and the media – the stay-at-home measures elevated it even further. How does someone stay-at-home without a home?
I am proud to observe a lot of work has been done combatting the problem over the last few months, the Victorian government has released millions in extra funding and not-for-profit organisations such as our own BeyondHousing have been putting in the extra mile, but I am concerned what happens on the other side of this crisis.
Since last November, my office has been conducting a review into the issue of homelessness in our region and some of the findings are sobering.
We experience some of the highest instances of homelessness in regional Victoria. People on the streets, the so-called “rough-sleepers” form only a small component, around seven per cent according to the data. There are also the “hidden homelessness,” hundreds of individuals and families who live daily with high levels of housing insecurity. These people are forced to couch surf and rely on the good-will of friends and family and they grapple daily with the worry of where they will sleep the following night.
Everyone deserves a door they can lock, a bed they can sleep in and a place to prepare a meal. Without these necessities life can quickly descend into a dark and miserable existence. Without these necessities, it can be extremely difficult to maintain a job or even basic health needs.
Our investigations have revealed we have a lot of great organisations in our region working hard to help those experiencing homelessness across the not-for-profit sector, but there are also noticeable problems.
Right now, we have more than twenty government social housing properties sitting vacant. Some of them have been vacant for years. I have asked the Minister for Housing to look into this. On Monday, the minister announced half-a-billion dollars to renovate and revitalise government owned social housing stock and it is only appropriate part of this spend occurs here.
The Victorian government has also pledged to build over 1000 new social housing properties across the state. Again, I have asked that the electorate with the highest rate of homelessness in regional Victoria receive some of the highest levels of social housing investment in regional Victoria.
There are many causes of homelessness such as family violence, mental health issues and drug and alcohol abuse, but one of the growing issues is simple housing affordability. I will continue to lobby the government on solutions to these myriad causes of homelessness in our region.
We have made significant gains over the last five years across health, education and infrastructure investment and I am committed to adding reducing homelessness to that list.