Call to ease the lot of rough sleepers

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FRANKSTON is the third worst electorate for rough sleeping of all of the state’s 88 electorates, as well as the eighth worst for people living in rooming houses.

The Nepean region – from Rye to Portsea – is the fifth worst regional electorate for “severe crowding” out of all 33 regional electorates. Severe crowding is defined by the Australian Bureau of Statistics as a house where at least four extra bedrooms would be needed to accommodate the occupants. Many have multiple families living under one roof, or multiple adults and children sharing sleeping areas.

Mornington is the 29th worst regional electorate for rough sleeping out of all 33 regional electorates and the 18th worst for rooming houses, and Hastings is the 13th worst regional electorate for rough sleeping and 17th worst regional electorate for couch-surfing.

The figures come from the Council to Homeless Persons. It has released a Homelessness Heat Map which reveals an emerging corridor of homelessness running from Melbourne’s west into the city and along the south eastern metropolitan corridor. It cites the electorates of Melbourne and Footscray as ranking first and second for rough sleeping.

The council says that the 69 per cent increase in stamp duty collected by the state government over the past five years – “amounting to $2.8 billion” – could be directed towards solving Victoria’s “homelessness and affordable housing crisis”.

In the lead-up to the November election, it will be calling on the major parties to adopt its recommendations, which includes adding 3000 social housing properties a year for 10 years, with 1500 being one-and-two bedroom houses for singles, couples or small families.

Other recommendations include supporting renters by paying back rental arrears and providing more legal advice and support; helping those exiting prison and psychiatric units to move into housing rather than remaining homeless, and providing dedicated housing stock and intensive support for rough sleepers “like they do in Finland”.

The council wants a greater focus on youth homelessness, which makes up 40 per cent of the figures in Victoria. It wants rent subsidies for young people leaving refuges, raising the age of young people exiting state care from 18 to 21, and more youth refuges.

On census night, 410 people were counted as homeless in Frankston – with 46 per cent being women.

Twenty-two per cent of Frankston’s homeless are under 25 and 25 per cent are aged 55-plus.

“This data makes it clear that homelessness is not just a city problem,” Council to Homeless Persons acting CEO Kate Colvin said. “Skyrocketing rents and a lack of social housing is driving homelessness in every electorate in Victoria.

“But there are solutions to overcome the crisis. With the right measures in place, we know we can prevent most homelessness, quickly rehouse people who lose their homes, and keep people housed long-term.

“We’ve developed a blueprint for solving homelessness and now we’re looking for the political leadership to implement it.”

First published in the Southern Peninsula News – 25 September 2018

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