A full investigation into the causes of and measures needed to combat the hidden problem of homelessness will be undertaken in Victoria.
Eastern Metropolitan Melbourne member Rod Barton presented a motion today calling for independent analysis of the changing scale and nature of homelessness across Victoria.
“We need to get a proper handle on this. What has struck me since become a member of parliament is how many of our people are facing a crisis in housing and are in need of homelessness services, and how hidden this problem is,” he said.
“Until very recently I believed that homelessness was a problem in inner city Melbourne. I thought it was about people sleeping rough on our city streets. I thought it was about alcohol and drug abuse and mental health issues. And it absolutely is about all of these things, but it is also a very real and immediate problem for women and families our in our suburbs”
Across Australia almost 289,000 people were helped by specialist homelessness services in the 2018 financial year – 40 percent of these people were in Victoria, with 116,872 people seeking assistance. In the council areas included in Mr Barton’s Eastern Metropolitan Region 14,000 people accessed homelessness assistance services, representing 15 percent of service requests across Victoria.
One of the most concerning statistics is the number of women and children that were homeless or at high risk of homelessness. Mr Barton said 64 percent of people accessing services in Victoria were women and 37 percent were under 18 years old.
“Almost half of these women are fleeing domestic and family violence and walking into a whole new world of problems. It saddens me to hear that 1 in 5 of those women will go back to their violent partners because they have no other options – they have no financial support and nowhere else to go,” he said.
“These are our mothers and our daughters. They are struggling and we have to do better,” he said.
Mr Barton said there was a severe lack of social housing and affordable rentals and existing services were overwhelmed with need and struggling to keep up. Red tape and bureaucratic box ticking caused delays in accessing emergency services.
“In times of crisis our system often requires people to tick all the boxes and fit into categories that allow us to collect number that I can stand here today and quote to you.
“But these are not just numbers. They tell a very sad story and give reason to warrant more thorough investigation,” he said.
On June 20 Mr Barton will participate in the St Vinnies CEO Sleepout to raise money and awareness for the issue of homelessness across Australia.
“I just can’t fathom what is must be like to be in this situation. So I’m going to find out – in a very limited way. What this experience won’t replicate is the stress and anxiety that these people face. For me it’s just one night.”
The Legal and Social Issues Committee will run an inquiry to provide an independent analysis of the changing scale and nature of homelessness across Victoria and look at the many social, economic and policy factors that impact on homelessness, and identify and make recommendations on policies and practices from all levels of government that have a bearing on delivering services to the homeless.
Mr Barton has thanked the legislative council for their support on this motion, especially his cross bench colleagues, and urged all members to work together to fix the homelessness crisis in Victoria.
Mr Barton’s CEO Sleepout donation page is at https://www.ceosleepout.org.au/fundraiser/RodBartonMP