Spotlight on ‘hidden homeless’

homeward bound

In Melbourne’s eastern suburbs more than 13,000 people sought the assistance of homelessness and crisis services last year.

Many of them were Melbourne’s ‘hidden homeless’, people who live temporarily with others but aren’t guaranteed permanent, private and secure housing.

Federal Member for Deakin and Assistant Minister to the Treasurer Michael Sukkar and Member for Eastern Metropolitan Region Samantha Dunn were among 75 people to learn the story of Melbourne’s hidden homeless, participating in the Homeward Bound walk last week.

The walk was run by the Eastern Homelessness Network (EHN)—a network of eastern homelessness and support organisations, including Uniting Wesley and Uniting Harrison—in a bid to raise awareness of the increasing number of people experiencing homelessness in Melbourne’s east in the lead up to Homelessness Week (7-13 August).

While walking around the Ringwood Lake, each participant was asked to walk in the shoes of someone experiencing homelessness by choosing out of five different scenarios and unfolding their story at markers along the way, including:

  • A 17-year-old boy who has been couch surfing with friends because his step-dad became physically violent.
  • A 53-year-old woman, recently separated from her husband of 31 years, who has just been evicted from her rental home.
  • A single man, 27, whose relationship has broken down and who can no longer live with his parents because he lost his job.
  • A 7-year-old child living with her mother, sister and brother. Her mum lost her job and had to pack up the house and move.
  • A 35-year woman born outside Australia with limited English and no family support who is experiencing family violence.

The scenarios represented the most common types of ‘hidden homeless’ that present at eastern homelessness services for support.

Eastern Homelessness Network Coordinator Jo McDonald said the walk was about raising awareness, using the opportunity to educate local councillors on the prevalence of homelessness in the east.

“This walk is about raising awareness of the increasing number of diverse people in our community experiencing homelessness that are not as visible as those sleeping rough in the CBD,” she said.

Uniting Wesley has seen a remarkable increase in the number of people seeking emergency relief and accommodation assistance. Manager crisis and homeless services Janene Evans said it was time the dots were joined between the housing affordability crisis and the increase in homelessness.

“In March 2007 there were 147 houses in Maroondah that were classed as affordable and in 2017, there are only 15,” she said.

“Melbourne’s inner east has the least amount of public housing properties in the state. In March there were 3,317 people on the waiting list for permanent housing.”

Homelessness Australia has launched a new national campaign calling for 100,000 community-housing properties to be created in Australian over the next five years, including 30,000 in Victoria.

Ms Evans said rising rent has seen people on low incomes pushed out of private rental and into marginal accommodation such as rooming houses, caravan parks and couch surfing.

“We support Homelessness Australia’s call to action because providing affordable housing is the single most important way to reduce homelessness,” she said.

Uniting provides housing, homelessness services and emergency relief support for people in crisis in Melbourne’s east.

Other Uniting events to acknowledge Homelessness Week include:
· Gippsland Homelessness Walk, 1 August
· Uniting Wyndham community event and blanket drive, 12 August
· Uniting Ballarat breakfast event in partnership with Central Highlands Homelessness Alliance and Central Highlands Homelessness Network, 17 August.

This story was originally published on Uniting Wesley’s website.

To find out more about Uniting click here. To find out more about the Eastern Homelessness Network click here.

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