Ms. Fiona Patten MP
Legislative Council, Legal and Social Issues Committee
Parliament of Victoria
Parliament House, Spring Street
EAST MELBOURNE VIC 3002
28 January 2020
Dear Ms. Patten,
Re: Inquiry into Homelessness in Victoria
On behalf of our diverse industry-based members; The Committee for Echuca Moama (C4EM) are pleased to submit the following feedback in relation to the complex nature of homelessness in Echuca Moama.
C4EM have been concerned about and have advocated for the issues surrounding homelessness in Echuca Moama since our inception in 2011.
In mid to late 2015; C4EM embarked upon a research project to quantify the amount of homelessness in the local region. The Monash University report is attached.
In short; it found a localized data set to quantify the size and nature of local homelessness issue was basically impossible to produce. This was due to many factors such as community sector service providers protecting their data sources to protect funding streams, community organisations don’t have platforms or capacity to collect and analyse data, homeless people don’t have avenues to contribute data, and that government data does not drill down into very specific areas and that what data is collected when released, is old and again does not address the transient nature of the homeless.
Since that time; a variety of community endeavors have attempted to address these issues through a dedicated network of service providers and local charities.
The issue remains that while many people have a role to play, no singular organisation takes the lead to address both the short- and long-term issues that we still experience.
This results in:
- limited ability by local community organisations to seek funding, or undertake advocacy to address the need without solid data,
- services and support that are fragmented and very different depending on where the person seeking support is located by virtue of our cross-border, dual state, one community makeup of the Echuca Moama region,
- Short term fixes while the long-term issues remain. While local collaboration between service providers is positive; they remain highly limited in their ability to support people due to limited budgets, strict eligibility criteria, reliance on volunteers, and lack of suitable housing stock to place people into.
Changing scale and nature of Homelessness
|According to the ABS Census of Population and Housing: Estimating homelessness, 2011 to 2016 Comparison (Published in March 2018) the number of homeless people number:|
|2011||2016||# increase||% increase|
Anecdotally; there are far more than 0 people who are homeless in the Murray (Moama) region; indicating that quality of data collection, remains a significant issue in quantifying the nature of the issue.
Social, economic and policy factors that impact on homelessness
- Rising rent of 3% in past year alone. Median private unit rent is $280 per week. Given Newstart for a single person is $279.50 per week; this often means people get stuck in short-term public housing and find it impossible to transition to the local private market.
- Access to suitable housing stock in the private market. The vacancy rate in Echuca is 1.01% and 0.59% in the Campaspe region compared to 1.51% in Victoria. Anecdotally; safe and appropriate housing stock for older women remains a significant gap.
- Anecdotally; we understand that primary homeless people in Echuca are waiting years for public housing.
- There is no provision to support homeless people on code-red days in the local region. Recently the limited short-term charity-based support that was available was shut due to the increased risk to volunteers. In Echuca, ‘rough-sleepers’ mostly camp in the high fire prone area along the River.
Suggestions for policies and practices from all levels of government that will make a difference in delivering services to the homeless.
- Share data across government, NGO’s and charities so we can better understand the nature of the issue,
- Undertake a local place-based approach to planning for effective delivery of services and infrastructure,
- Work collaboratively across state and local governments in NSW and Victoria to plan services and infrastructure that suit cross-border communities,
Most importantly, we want to see:
- A review of program funding effectiveness to ensure it is being utilised to meet the short-term needs of homeless people in the Echuca region
- A variety of new housing stock being built by government funded NGO’s, with
- Interlinked services that support people to sustain their tenancies such as mental health, transport, employment, training, parenting, and community engagement.
- Governments working in partnership with community to achieve local solutions.